‘Candle-lighting’ — the Catholic response to the Pell conviction

In the wake of the Pell conviction for child sexual assault, we are now hearing grave concerns from cultural conservatives and Catholic commentators that the jury verdict was ‘unsafe’.

There’s a distinction between law and fact at the heart of criminal legal proceedings. The judge makes decisions on the legal and procedural issues, while the jury is the tribunal of fact. The facts enliven the law. Judges’ decisions on legal matters are frequently overturned in appeals to higher courts, but it is extremely uncommon for an appellate court to overturn a jury decision.

The legal test for overturning a decision was set out in a case with a similar fact scenario to Pell, M v The Queen [1994] HCA 63. M was a father accused of sexually assaulting his 13 year old daughter, with proceedings brought many years after the event was alleged to have occurred. The majority in that case, Mason CJ, Deane, Dawson and Toohey JJ, found:

If the evidence, upon the record itself, contains discrepancies, displays inadequacies, is tainted or otherwise lacks probative force in such a way as to lead the court of criminal appeal to conclude that, even making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by the jury, there is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted, then the court is bound to act and to set aside a verdict based upon that evidence [citations omitted].

The advantages enjoyed by the jury are seeing and hearing the witness. The High Court is saying that even an appeal court judge reading the evidence is at a disadvantage compared to the jury. In other words, the complainant’s demeanour is relevant to the judgment of their testimony. In M’s case the majority concluded:

the ultimate question must always be whether the court thinks that upon the whole of the evidence it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty (18 Chidiac v. The Queen (1991) 171 CLR at 443, 451, 458, 461-462) .

The ultimate question is whether it was open to the jury — we’ll come back to that. For now, I want to reflect on a piece in Eureka Street, no doubt a long time in the drafting, in which the Jesuit priest and lawyer Fr Frank Brennan responds to news of the conviction. I’m told the piece has been circulated to every family with a child enrolled at a Catholic school, indicating that it represents the views of the archdiocese.

These are special, non-flickering votive candles.

Fr Brennan clearly anticipates the considerations in M v The Queen. In so doing, he places himself in the shoes of the jury, despite acknowledging he was only in court for some of the proceedings. In M’s case, Brennan J — that would be Fr Brennan’s own father — noted ‘the appellate court must acknowledge that the primary responsibility for finding the facts rests with the jury, not with the appellate court.’ Fr Brennan acknowledges that he did not even see or hear the principal evidence, and yet, lacking the caution of an appellate court, he considers himself better placed to judge the facts of the case than the jury.

Fr Brennan argues the verdict is unsatisfactory because the jury must not have placed the same weight as he does on the criticisms of the complainant made by the defence. In so doing, he makes a number of assumptions about how the jury must have reached its decision. They are necessarily assumptions, because juries do not give reasons for their decisions and none of the jury has spoken out. I am, to put it mildly, bemused that Fr Brennan imagines himself an unbiased observer and commentator on proceedings involving Cardinal Pell.

Fr Brennan insists the complainant made mistakes in his evidence. Compared to the High Court bench in 1994, we now know from studies of eyewitness evidence and the recollection of traumatic events that discrepancies of recall are common. The whole point of trauma is that it resists being encoded as narrative memory and must be relived, rather than recalled, under conditions of intense distress. It is open to a jury to conclude that the complainant was wrong about some of the particulars but correct about the substance of the allegations.

Defence barristers in proceedings involving sexual assault invariably insist that any small discrepancy is evidence that the whole complaint has been made up. Let me take a moment to note how old that insistence is. I draw here on the work of the historian Barbara Hanawalt (2003) on medieval law-making. She notes that the crime of rape was first codified in legislation in the first Statute of Westminster in 1275 AD, in response to the concern that rape complaints were too easy to make under common law. At first the sentence for rape was punishment in life and member, but this was adjusted downwards in 1285.

Hanawalt describes the common law procedure for prosecuting rape in medieval times. The victim had to tell the first person she encountered after the rape occurred, and then proclaim the rape, in detail and without delay, to the ‘reeve’ — an assembly of all the men in good standing in her town or village. Then, at the next assizes (a travelling court), she had to give an account once again that varied in not one single detail from the earlier accounts she had given. Even the tiniest deviation could be seized upon as evidence the complaint was false, exposing the woman herself to criminal punishment and her family to civil proceedings.

Put simply, rape proceedings have a similar structure to the method of trial by ordeal used in witch hunts, and this underlying frame persists in the modern-day practice of rape prosecutions, even though legislators have sought to defuse it. Indeed, much the same concerns — lack of corroboration, delay in reporting, discrepancies, the victim’s demeanour — were ventilated in M’s case.

Fr Brennan writes:

My only conclusion is that the jury must have disregarded many of the criticisms so tellingly made by Richter of the complainant’s evidence and that, despite the complainant being confused about all manner of things, the jury must nevertheless have thought — as the recent royal commission discussed — that children who are sexually violated do not always remember details of time, place, dress and posture. Although the complainant got all sorts of facts wrong, the jury must have believed that Pell did something dreadful to him. The jurors must have judged the complainant to be honest and reliable even though many of the details he gave were improbable if not impossible.

Tellingly made, indeed. ‘Improbable’ perhaps refers to the High Court’s decision in M’s case. Fr Brennan asserts what lawyers and legal scholars describe as tendency evidence in order to argue that this particular event was ‘improbable or even impossible.’ Tendency evidence is inherently weak. It has the following inferential structure: ‘the assertion that X happened is more likely to be true because of all these other occasions on which X also happened.’ The planned second prosecution of Cardinal Pell, the ‘swimmers’ case’, was abandoned this week after the judge ruled tendency evidence inadmissible in those proceedings, in turn leading to the lifting of the suppression order on news of his conviction.

Fr Brennan argues that Pell could not have been in the sacristy because ‘the Archbishop was a stickler for liturgical form and that he developed strict protocols in his time as archbishop’ — a pattern or tendency that did not include visiting the sacristy alone, or so soon after the Mass ended.

However, ‘generally did not’ is not the same as ‘never did’. It was, again, open to the jury to conclude that on this occasion, however exceptional it might have been, Pell did enter the sacristy alone and soon after the mass. Brennan does not say over what timeframe Pell developed this pattern of behaviour; the complaint concerns a mass very early in his tenure as Archbishop of Melbourne, and David Marr observes that his protocol may not have been set in stone at that point in time.

Likewise, Fr Brennan asserts that the vestments conventionally worn for a mass of that kind include an alb — a garment that would not easily permit a priest access to his genitals. But, again, this involves asserting a general custom as evidence against a particular event. The prosecution led evidence that it is possible to move the customary vestments to one side. (Perhaps for practical reasons: so many old men, so many dodgy prostates.) Pell has a reputation for being a stickler, but reputation is, yet again, another kind of tendency evidence. It does not exclude the possibility of exceptional circumstances, leaving it open to the jury, considering all the evidence as a whole, to conclude that this particular event occurred.

Finally, Fr Brennan explicitly poses the questions he is raising in the piece: ‘Was the verdict unreasonable? Can it be supported having regard to the evidence? Those are questions for the appeal court.’ If so, why the piece?

It pays lip-service to the role of the courts, but Fr Brennan goes on to conclude by saying he ‘hopes and prays’ that justice will be done. That is not something you say if you believe justice has been done. There is a name for this kind of semantic nicety: it’s called being Jesuitical, and only the Jesuits think that’s a compliment.

The thing I find most troubling is the move Fr Brennan makes next. He writes ‘ I can only hope and pray that the complainant can find some peace, able to get on with his life, whichever way the appeal goes.’ This is the ultimate Catholicism. It extends to the person who has been wronged a false pity that simultaneously implies their complaint springs from being troubled. It is a hypocritical gesture that evades moral accountability while further injuring the person bringing the moral claim.

In the context of partner abuse, this move is known as gaslighting. In the case of the Catholic response to the Pell conviction and the findings of the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, we could perhaps call it ‘candle-lighting.’

Cardinal Pell’s legal team have already filed a motion to appeal the decision. An army of Catholics who imagine themselves defenders of a victimised church have turned out in force, on social media and in the press, to insist that Pell cannot be called an abuser until the appeal has been heard. This misunderstands the law: the maxim is ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ not ‘innocent until the guilty verdict survives on appeal.’

But even the Vatican, which refuses to take action against the Cardinal, insists on the latter. There’s a refusal to acknowledge that secular institutions have any authority over church officials, or that a conviction impairs tenure in religious office. This does not bode well for Vatican acceptance of mandatory reporting duties for church officials, or for meaningful cultural change to protect young people in the care of Catholic schools, churches, and welfare organisations from sexual assault.

62 thoughts on “‘Candle-lighting’ — the Catholic response to the Pell conviction”

  1. Thank you. This is an excellent, thoughtful, nuanced piece. I hope it gets wide acknowledgment.
    I am grief stricken and dismayed at all this and am pondering the power of psychological denial. Those who could not see it as it happened because it ‘could not happen’. Those who deny it with ‘implausible’ reasoning. I have seen denial in action and I know how extraordinary it can be, to refuse to acknowledge through compartmentalising. These people don’t believe it because they simply cannot.

    1. Thanks, Gretchen. Yes, I have the same struggle with people arguing as though this is an abstract logic problem and there isn’t a person at the centre of it all.

      1. I met Frank 17 years ago when he was a fierce human rights advocate, particularly for Iranians and Palestinians trapped in the hell of Woomera for years without possibility of release. I never thought I was see and hear him now saying that it’s OK to break the rule of refoulement for all future refugees so we could remedy the rule of refoulement for those we have illegally trafficked to Nauru and Manus.

        Now he thinks insulting a jury and the victims of shocking sexual abuse is OK, I am ashamed for him.

        1. He didn’t insult the victims – please don’t castigate people for harbouring scepticism. It’s healthy. Juries stuff up very often.

          1. Simply asserting ‘scepticism’ does not absolve Fr Brennan of his lack of respect for the jury and the complainant. And criminal lawyers will tell you juries sometimes mess it up but mostly they get it right.

          2. His whole piece is an nsult to the victims.

            I am dismayed that Brennan has joined the boys’ club so emphatically.

    2. Thanks, Gretchen, for sharing this link and thanks Daniel for writing an informative, reflective and sensitive piece. I was most dismayed to find Fr Brennan published that piece when he was not privy to the testimony, but also dismayed by the lack of consideration for survivors of sexual abuse to publish it so soon after the verdict.

    3. Now the general public are exposed to how it feels to not be believed not because of factual information but because of their belief that the clergy are infallible.
      Try telling your Catholic Parents that the local priest sexually abused you at age 7. (Not possible).
      Then try when your 20 years old, then when your 52 Years old.
      I believe its a form of cognitive dissonance the Catholic can’t cope with their belief system or doctrine being questioned. They know that their child has been sexually abused but they have a conflicting belief that the clergy is pure and God like, perhaps they see it as an attack on their religion one in which they can not defend? The meaning of cognitive dissonance is that as a catholic you cannot comfortably hold both beliefs simultaneously so then fall to disbelief because the reality is far too confronting. Cognitive Dissonance is in the field of psychology, the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person.

  2. Having family that are hardline catholics and take the same line as Frank Brennan, I am astounded at their denial and lack of concern for the victim. All sympathy goes to the perpetrator. It is a pattern seen repeatedly in families who close ranks with perpetrators against the victim to save face, save the family, save the institution. Sadly this is the same writ large.

    1. Whether by church or by family, closing ranks to save face demonstrates a moral deficit plus a lack of care and responsibility for the victim. It is self serving. It is betrayal. This level of betrayal adds to the abuse and often casts a dark, lifelong shadow.

    2. I note that sometimes family appear to close ranks due to the danger the perp puts them in. My father was accused of horrendous crimes (which he was guilty of); yet people stalked and threatened my life as his daughter. I cannot control what he does, I cannot make amends for what he did. I hated him for it – the crime was not only inexcusable but it was also, for me, a betrayal. An addition that others didn’t experience. Yet my life was in danger because people were angry at him. So you might find family will protect their own because the public sure won’t.

  3. My children’s high school in Sydney did not receive any link to Brennan’s artcle. Sydney Catholic Schools did not issue it as an official response along with their letter from Mark Coleman, which also doesn’t mention it. Anthony Fisher’s letter to parents also did not link to Brennan’s letter. Who has been sending it out to Sydney parents, can you clarify? Is it discretionary on the part of principals?

    1. I am going on what Louise Milligan reported – I think she was talking about the Catholic Education Office in Victoria.

  4. This is such a well thought out and well reasoned article Terry .Thank you !!I feel that Frank Brennan has let himself down on this one !

  5. That’s an excellent article, Daniel.

    Catholic “thinking” – and by extension, canonical law – usually seeks to further vilify the abused. To essentially say “I’m sorry for the way that YOU feel” goes to the heart of what verbal abuse actually is. It’s condescension which lays out an assumption of defective thinking, to double the impact of the one-two-whammy attack. It’s diabolical inasmuch as it’s an unfounded claim of objectivity, bolstered by false sympathy, and entirely dependent on reinforcing the victim’s insecurity…probably caused by their own subjective “confusion”.

    In an age in which we’re discouraged away from Critical Thinking we often miss the intellectual sophistry of canonical law, but Breenan’s reasoning shows just how toxic it can be. And how deftly it seeks to subvert civil and criminal law.

    “Candle-lighting” has traditionally been been weaponized against homosexuals: to be told that the sinner is loved but the sin is hated is a actually worthless and empty statement of sadism, only of appeal to the damaged and masochistic.

    As a society we’ll be a lot better off when we learn that good shepherds don’t beat their flocks.

    Thanks again for your very astute and timely piece.

  6. A thoughtful, nuanced demolition of the mounting campaign by Pell’s partisans to white-ant the trial judge and jury and to get him off on appeal. Well done. But the battle has just begun. The Murdochracy is gearing up…

  7. Thank you, an excellent article.
    I would add that unlikely things happen every day of the week, all over the world. « Freak » accidents happen with monotonous regularity.
    If anyone had predicted that a person of colour would marry in into the royal family, and that a sermon on colonialism and slavery would be given by an African American preacher during the wedding ceremony, I suspect that would have been considered both highly unlikely, and to a person woke from a coma after the events, highly implausible.
    But happen it did.
    Personally (and I’m not legally trained) Pell’s well established tendency to see child abuse as of little interest or concern to him, his antagonism toward victims, would indicate a callous disregard that would not cause him to offend, but would certainly allow him to do so with zero concern for his victims.

    1. This is the best piece I have read so far. Thank you. The disinterested way Pell and his lawyers handled this trial was offensive to themselves and others. They had room to move and didn’t. Some may well register this as concession to guilt. It’s as if they await the higher power that most Catholic Clergy – especially the higher ranking ones – still invoke closest connection to than any others of us here on earth. This for instance via the Nicean Creed and the atrocious doctrine of the holy succession.
      Personally, and only with the evidence of one who was not on the jury, I still have to suspend judgement on whether he physically did what he is alleged to have done… even if innocent of that though I think he and the church are getting what was has been coming to them for a long time. That it should come this way is not a surprise at all, after all this is borne of the licentiousness, cruelty and untouchability of Caesars (sic) long past yet still living in those present.

      1. I do find it strange that the plaintiff can remain anonymous along with what turns out to be the key evidence here – considerations of the demeanour and character of the plaintiff. Why is it inaccessible to the public when the defendant is so high profile and the case with such political ramification? Legally, if a defendant isn’t guilty until proven so, then an alleged victim isn’t a victim until prove so as well… and therefore must accept the consequences of making allegations public as much as the defendant does of receiving them against him…?

        1. In a criminal trial the victim is called the victim or the complainant, not the plaintiff. And you’re conflating two issues here: access to the testimony and proof of the matter. Firstly, the complainant’s account is proven when the jury brings down a guilty verdict on the defendant. Secondly, this is not mob justice. The trial is adjudicated by a jury of 12 peers who represent the community. The complainant was cross-examined for four days by one of the sharpest defence barristers in the land. It is absolutely not the case that the victim then has to undergo further public scrutiny. Their identity is protected because to do otherwise be a major deterrent to reporting crimes of rape, sexual abuse etc. In this case the testimony is kept private because it contains details that could identify the complainant.

          1. Yes, the complainant was examined for 4 days by one of the sharpest defence lawyers around who also chose not to put his client, the defendant, on the stand for a single minute. Choosing not be exposed to have to tell the truth the whole and only the truth, so help him God. Why do you think this is the case? I find it hard to now swallow the defence claim that the defendant’s case has not been properly heard according to the process of law. I also wonder what would happen if he had to put his hand on that Bible and swear to God to tell the truth. We will never know. All we know is the judgement that a jury of 12 made after 4 days of testimony and grilling of the claimant.

  8. This is a beautifully written piece; balanced with legal and academic argument and complete compassion. The fact remains that our legal system must be trusted, and we in turn must trust that those who administer it do so responsibly.

    The jury have heard the arguments from both sides, deliberated accordingly and have found the defendant guilty. That fact is indisputable. Until Frank Brennan and the Pell apologists find a better system, that is how it will remain.

    In the meantime, there are many thousands of broken lives still searching for solace as a result of a Catholic hierarchy still in denial and emboldened by the likes of Frank Brennan.

    1. Sorry but I can’t trust the legal system – it messes up too often, and my experience as a juror gives me very little faith. Over 7% (probably far more) of prisoners in Australia are innocent.

      1. Dr Robert Davidson, I dispute your unsupported facts. I work in the prison system and I can tell you that 96.8% of prisoners in Victoria are innocent. This is a fact based on personal discussions with the prisoners themselves.

      2. So 7% (or more) of prisoners in Australia are innocent.

        Do you have information on how many defendents are found not guilty when in fact they are? Possibly due to legal technicalities, insufficient evidence or having a first rate barrister?

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is far more than your 7%. By a factor.

  9. Thanks Daniel, you make some very salient points. Good to hear some reason amongst all the noise.

  10. Thanks for an instructive article. I was astounded at lawyer Frank Brennan holding the jury in such contempt, but now I see how his mindset formed around him like a carapace. Cognitive dissonance is a remarkable thing.

  11. Thank you Daniel for taking the time to write this. It needed to be said and I too hope that it receives wide circulation.

  12. Well-argued, rational article. It made me think of a poem written in 1910 by the German poet Christian Morgenstern, entitled “Impossible Fact.” A law-abiding citizen is run over by a car in a street where cars may not enter. He gets up and thinks that if cars MAY NOT enter, then they DO NOT enter, therefore he was not run over, his accident was an impossible fact. The last line says, in German, “Nicht sein kann, was nicht sein darf”, which can be (badly) translated as “Nothing which may not happen can happen”.

    1. Surely the translation is “Nothing which may not happen can not happen”. This is the classic line that the defense followed: Pell could not commit said act through his attire, therefore Pell did not commit said act. This is despite Richter asserting that the act was a plain vanilla…

      1. Nothing can happen which may not happen? (Sorry, my mother tongue is neither English nor German)

        1. I think perhaps it’s ‘Something which may not happen, can happen’ — logic does not govern empirical facts.

  13. Cannot imagine the pain of not being believed, but this gas-lighting is such a cruel form of torture for these unfortunate victims. They need all the support we can give them.

  14. Thank you for this excellent article. It’s very carefully researched and helpful to understand parts of the law which are commonly misinterpreted. And I think it’s excellent that you remind the reader that we are also not simply quibbling over points of law, but that there’s a very real human being here (many of them, in fact) who have been horribly wronged.
    Thank you for writing calmly about this very emotional subject and taking it seriously.

  15. Thank you for a most well reasoned articulation of the whole situation. I agree that to impugn the judge and jury without being privy to the evidence given is very undermining of our judicial system. Clearly a wish on the part of Brennan to save the Church in the guise of Jesuital jurisprudence. Again, thank you.

  16. To be sceptical about evidence in a court case is not gaslighting – it’s reasonable behaviour. Anyone who tries to use shame to control me into giving up scepticism will not meet a happy response.

    1. Scepticism goes a lot deeper than simply doubting things wholesale. Scepticism in this case involves acknowledging that we weren’t there. We weren’t there at the time of the attack, and we weren’t there in court, and we weren’t there in the jury room. This requires us to acknowledge that other people were there, and they made a decision based on much better access to the evidence than we have. If you don’t accept that, it suggests you’re not, in fact, sceptical, but rather you assume you know better than everyone else – which is the polar opposite of scepticism. Also, regarding your other comment, on this blog, when we cite percentages, we provide the sources.

      1. Daniel Reeders, I would assume you have the same conviction and trust in the infallibility of the judicial system if you or someone you know were convicted in the court of law for a similar set of accusations. If not, why not?

        1. Vuong, nothing in this piece gives you grounds to assume that I believe in the infallibility of the judicial system. I start the piece by describing a High Court judgment on overturning jury verdicts. On this blog we prioritise careful readings and reasonable discussion.

    2. ‘Gaslighting’ in the article did not refer to Brennan’s skepticism, rather it referred to Brennan’s treatment of the victim – ‘ I can only hope and pray that the complainant can find some peace, able to get on with his life, whichever way the appeal goes.’ Brennan exhibited deceitful pity in asserting the victim’s unreasonableness by dint of his trouble. Yet, a jury of 12 found the victim reasonable beyond doubt despite Richter’s questioning.

  17. Before I began to read this article, I was ready for some pro Pell propaganda.
    I am still quite sure of the verdict that he is guilty but yes, the justice system determines that. Right or wrong.
    What I need is my Catholic community to share some discourse and I don’t mean a lynch – mob but all I feel is people scared to say , yeah , he may be guilty.
    I want the debate because only when it’s discussed can we move forward and find the real problem… what is fundamentally wrong that this is and has happened for too long

  18. The questioning of the legal system of the guilty verdict and waiting for the appeal, has been an awful result of the trial. I personally see the influence of the Italian / Vatican legal system where a person is not actually guilty until all appeals are exhausted, which is inquisitorial in nature. Those journalists, especially in the Murdoch sphere have shown their ignorance of the Australian legal system, (as have some comments here) which should not have been printed. Freedom of expression and opinion is surely based on fact, not on feelings.

    Secondly, regarding the victim, under law in sex offence cases he has every right to remain anonymous. Also in previous inquiries into sexual abuse (Ireland for example) witnesses who had a history of alcohol or drug abuse were excluded due to unreliability, those with a criminal record excused due to dishonesty. Even under the Church’s own guidelines he is the perfect witness, he has no addiction issues, no criminal record, he has a conventional relationship with children. Even in the realm of historic child abuse he came forward quickly.

    As an aside, Pell’s obsession with how busy he was and how many people were around tells me he was always looking for an opportunity, the first complaints about him go back to Philip Island while he was at the seminary.

  19. I do not know what really happened.

    I accept the verdict, as I will accept the decision of the Appeal Court.

    I also trust in God that he/she will, in due course, deal with Pell as he deserves.

    Heaven help him if he is judged adversely in that ultimate court. And if so, he will have many earthly friends.

      1. Well, let’s not assume they continue to have faith. They might prefer to go quietly into the earth without thoughts of an afterlife.

  20. Such a great article, Daniel.

    I expected the response from Bolt & co and some dear Catholic friends, but the Frank Brennan piece and the response from various lawyers has troubled me. Brennan can’t bring himself to believe that Pell abused, so contorts himself, attacking the victim and rule of law in the process.

    According to a barrister acquaintance ‘the whole Sydney bar thinks the appeal will get up’. It seems some lawyers can’t accept that the jury could possibly convict on the testimony of just one complainant – or possibly, more to the point, can’t accept that the very best of their profession could not sway the jury.

    All await eagerly for the appeal and some kind of vindication. On behalf of the victims, I hope they are wrong.

    1. I am not confident at all that the appeal won’t succeed. There are a number of reasons for that. Most of the effort to change court practice and judicial attitudes around rape and sexual assault have been concentrated at the County Court level in Victoria. Most appellate court judges didn’t practice criminal law, don’t see rape cases all that often, and weren’t exposed to those efforts to change judicial attitudes. We have repeatedly seen appellate judgements that feel like they are 20 years out of date.

      The thing to remember though is that there is an asymmetry of proof between a guilty verdict and an acquittal. A guilty verdict means he did it. An acquittal does not mean he didn’t — it just means the case was not proved. I don’t expect the likes of Bolt, Devine etc to make that distinction, but it’s an important one for victims and their families and supporters to keep in mind.

  21. Daniel, I’ve read this twice now, and I will post it. Such a superb translation of legalese without compromise. I know Frank personally and am appalled – but what I’ve been confronted with more than anything is that even I, an out queer for decades, a Catholic who never believed and always mistrusted the Church – even I assumed Pell’s power as much as he did. What I am shocked by is not that Pell molested children but that he was convicted for it. Frank has the gall to impute that Pell is a ‘scapegoat’. Gee whizz, that’s what Pell made of our entire community for decades!! The zeal with which he vilified and demeaned our community was a classic sign of repressed homosexuality. We know – us Catholics and queers – have known for years about this culture of abuse. So the cracks are appearing. It will take longer than anyone here on this thread is alive, but we have to push these cracks open, and keep speaking up. the abuse has to stop. My guess is the appeal will win, but more people will step forward to accuse him.

  22. Thank you for your explaining key facts related to the Pell child sex abuse trial and to Frank Brennan SJ’s article as well. There are some remarkably formed assertions being made among the ‘Eureka Street’ comments upon Brennan’s article. (Perhaps including my own!) I am so glad to have found this Blog, via Twitter. Social media does have a few gems among the dross.

  23. Having worked treating men who offend, those harmed by abuse and the families affected, for over 35 years as a psychologist and ordained minister I would just say this:
    1. I have lost count of the number of abuse cases where the circumstances, finally admitted, seemed utterly unbelievable; such is the deviousness of some offenders.
    2. The jury heard his story, and saw the witness subjected to intense cross-examination, and believed him.

  24. Arthur Moses SC, Law Council of Australia, in 9 March edition of The Saturday Paper, asserts that it is for the forth estate (the media) to hold the Court to account, thereby upholding a principle of the judiciary, that of openness. One considers Moses quite naive given the profound partiality of Australian media orthodoxy in assessing the Pell judgement. In the absence of media heterodoxy, the cunning partiality of media orthodoxy would not be exposed for what it is. Moses’ argument is further weakened by the sad fact that the Australian polity is by and large unaware of media heterodoxy.

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