Leading article Australia

Wheels fall off Pell’s tumbril

11 April 2020

9:00 AM

11 April 2020

9:00 AM

As in a bombardment on a strategically crucial target, all the big guns were firing. And great was the rejoicing in the ranks of the anti-Pell forces when the battle seemed won and the cardinal, reduced from a pinnacle of ecclesiastical state to a powerless figure in the dock, was locked up in solitary confinement and disgraced before the world as a sexual abuser of children. The ABC was ecstatic. ‘George Pell is a child abuser,’ were the categorical opening words from a smirking 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales on the evening of his conviction, as if there were no doubt in the evidence at all.

Up to this point events might have been scripted by the Catholic-bashers of the secular Left. But then it turned out that the dénouement was not to be according to their prescribed scenario. The prisoner has now been freed by the High Court, something his persecutors probably counted on not happening, given its leftish-tinged past decisions. Pell-haters must face the fact that years of orchestrated vilification have failed.

More importantly, with the High Court’s rare 7-0 verdict, justice in Australia has finally retrieved its good name. Indeed, in our 14 March issue, David Flint urged the High Court to correct this fiasco, arguing that ‘Cardinal Pell’s appeal is crucial not only to him but to the nation. The High Court has the unique opportunity of defending nothing less than the rule of law.’

Pell’s successful appeal is not just a personal vindication but a reproach to the Victorian judicial system, which allowed the case to proceed so far on evidence which ‘was not capable of excluding a reasonable doubt as to [Pell’s] guilt,’ as the judgment puts it. During the succession of court hearings Justice seemed at times to have mislaid her blindfold, what with the imprecision of evidence allowed, the reported suppression of unsavoury details which might have put the accuser in a bad light, eccentricities in judicial procedure and a dubious interpretation of ‘reasonable doubt’.

Although the former choirboy accuser will have had his own reasons for denouncing the cardinal, the zeal with which the Left joined the fray shows that the case against Pell can be interpreted as part of the leftist war on our society’s Judaeo-Christian traditions. Pell was to be, and since he went to prison in February last year until this week was, a war trophy. The charges followed a campaign of attrition during which his enemies tried to bring him down through the Royal Commission by association with clerical abusers and allegations of ‘covering up’. None of that translated into charges against Pell himself; but then it turned out that the Victoria Police, a supposedly impartial body, had been busy behind the scenes. Though their technique owes more to the Keystone Cops than Scotland Yard – at one point they got a warrant for the wrong address – they were revealed to have set up a Pell-investigating ‘task force’ years before they had any allegations to investigate.

Accusations duly materialised and when charges were laid the anti-Pell coalition – a ragbag alliance of the ABC, the mainstream media, sundry ‘liberal’ Catholics and parlour leftists – busied itself creating a climate conducive to Pell’s conviction. An especially shameful effort was made by the once-respected Melbourne University Press under its then director, Louise Adler, a pillar of the leftish consensus, who used MUP’s prestige to publish, even before Pell was charged, a de facto case for his prosecution written by ABC journalist Louise Milligan, who seemed to know in advance what charges were pending.

The ABC emerges from this case as disgracefully irresponsible. It constantly complains that it is short of money, yet it spent vast sums sending the sanctimonious Sarah Ferguson around the world for no other purpose than to further the persecution of an Australian citizen it dislikes. The airing of her spiteful ‘reports’ on child abuse by Catholic clergy (who statistically form a tiny minority of offenders) was clearly timed to coincide with the High Court decision and either rain on the parade if Pell were cleared or give one last slam to the prison door if he were not. This vindictive squandering of taxpayers’ money makes privatisation of the ABC even more urgent.

All the Pell-haters who gave the tumbril a push along will be feeling thwarted. The hatred will not evaporate with Pell’s acquittal – almost certainly the opposite – and ‘survivors’ will continue to ‘remember’ things he supposedly did and to complain that they have been denied justice. Pell’s victory is Pyrrhic; even if his career is not over, his health is not good and the case will have taken a heavy toll.

Australia owes a special debt of gratitude to brave individuals such as Andrew Bolt, Tony Abbott and others vilified by the Left simply for standing up for the integrity of our dangerously-threatened and precious legal system.

Without over-egging the metaphor, there is a certain timeliness to this tale of persecution, faith and resurrection. Happy Easter.

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