TIMES OF DISTRESS: A STORY OF UNSWERVING FAITH AND COMMITMENT, Book 1 in my new Conciliar Series, has been released on Amazon in ebook and paperbook formats. To read a sample click below:
I was looking for a cover of a novel by an Australian Catholic for the banner of a new FB group page THE AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC WRITERS’ FORUM (to be developed). I had a few of Christopher Koch’s novels on hand and chose Highways to a War, the 1996 Miles Franklin Award winner. I then looked around for some information about the now (almost) forgotten Christopher Koch and found this inspiring article by Karl Schmude.
Christopher Koch: A novelist for an age with no answers
The Catholic imagination of Christopher Koch, the Australian novelist most remembered for The Year of Living Dangerously (1978), was shaped by two intense experiences.Continue reading The Catholic Imagination of Christopher Koch
I recently completed an update of TONY ABBOTT AND THE TIMES OF REVOLUTION. I did a bit of polishing and added an index of names. An index of names was an important upgrade. I should perhaps have done that in the beginning. The book also has a new and more attractive cover. The photo is of the entrance to Sydney University where all the action took place.
In a previous comment, I wondered what motivated Victoria’s Court of Appeal judges, Anne Ferguson and Chris Maxwell, to reject Cardinal Pell’s appeal. I watched the delivery of the verdict. I was stunned to the point of feeling faint. I could not believe what I was hearing from the smug mouth of Ferguson with her superior ‘Karen’ airs. I asked whether it was incompetence, ideology or spinelessness that was the motivation. Damon Johnston’s article below on the appalling record of the Appeal Court under Maxwell suggests incompetence was the problem.
Victoria’s Court of Appeal savaged in landmark legal study
JULY 23, 2020 The Australian
DAMON JOHNSTON VICTORIAN EDITOR
Victoria’s Court of Appeal has been rocked by a landmark legal study finding that 18 criminal judgments under its president, judge Chris Maxwell, have been overturned by the High Court.
The report, by Victoria’s former chief crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC, concluded that during Justice Maxwell’s reign the court had “cast off its near-perfect record”.
“The first 10 years of the Court of Appeal in its criminal jurisdiction saw its judgments affirmed on 10 occasions and reversed twice by the High Court,” Mr Silbert writes in his report, published in the Australian Law Journal.
“The next 14 years (under Justice Maxwell) have seen the Court of Appeal’s judgments reversed 16 times and affirmed on six occasions, with a large number of its decisions criticised, particularly in … sentencing.”Continue reading The failure of Victoria’s Court of Appeal – Cardinal Pell
Wanda Skowronska, Quadrant, 14 August
It has been four months since Cardinal George Pell was freed from Victoria’s Barwon Prison on April 7, after the High Court unanimously overturned his convictions. During his 400 days in jail many people, myself among them, sent the Cardinal letters and cards of support, hoping and praying he would be soon released. Now, a few months later, I have had the privilege of sitting for over an hour with the Cardinal who had graciously agreed to a meeting.
Before me was someone who had suffered greatly, yet was relaxed, serene, courteous and witty. While we were conversing, I could not help sensing his inner peace, from deep wells of the soul. He clearly has an ongoing lively interest in books which prison did nothing to abate. Our discussion was mainly about his dear friend Father Paul Stenhouse (right), who died on November 19, 2019, and of whom many tributes have been written.
Cardinal Pell noted the “intellectual qualities” and “very fine Catholic writing” of Fr Stenhouse, saying he was “a deeply faithful priest.” He had heard of the priest-scholar before he met him in the 1990s in Melbourne and from there came a meeting of minds in which many situations in the church and the world were discussed. Fr Stenhouse, being the editor of Annals, the longest-running journal in Australian history, put his knowledge of history and language into this doughty publication from the 1960s. There was much to discuss, the Cardinal chuckling at how his older friend insisted on driving him around Sydney, “even when he was in his 80s!” Asked his opinion of Fr Stenhouse’s driving, the Cardinal replied calmly that “he did not terrify me.” He recalled how they would visit friends, go to restaurants and visited Camden, where Fr Stenhouse grew up. Among other subjects, they discussed the situation in the church, how to help those suffering from religious persecution, and their high regard for Saint John Paul II.
The Coronavirus: How did Victoria get so much so wrong?
Gerard Henderson, The Sydney Institute, 11 August 2020
Around two months ago I walked up a one-way street in the Sydney CBD. A young man, wearing a mask approached me and asked, firmly but courteously, if I would use the opposite footpath. I did so.
On looking around, I noticed two parked police cars and a bus. After passing the bus I looked back and saw a member of the Australian Defence Force ushering passengers into a hotel. I realised that this was a group of people returning from overseas and going into 14-day quarantine. There was an air of quiet authority about the process.
This contrasts with the apparent mayhem in some of the hotels used for quarantine in Melbourne. For reasons currently unknown, the Victorian Labor government did not put Victoria Police in charge of quarantine and did not accept the commonwealth government’s early offers to provide the ADF’s assistance.
CNA Staff, Jun 27, 2020 / 02:02 pm MT (CNA).- A member of the Parliament of Victoria has urged that there be an inquiry into the treatment of Cardinal George Pell by the state’s police and judiciary, months after Australia’s High Court unanimously overturned his conviction for five alleged counts of sexual abuse.
Victorian politician calls for inquiry into investigation of Cardinal Pell
Bernie Finn, a member of the Victorian Legislative Council from the Liberal Party, said June 18 that “the integrity of the justice system in this state is very much on trial.”
“There are major questions that are desperately in need of answers. I would like to see an inquiry that is at arm’s length from Victoria Police, arm’s length from the judiciary and arm’s length from the government.”
Finn asked that Jill Hennessey, Attorney-General of Victoria, launch an investigation into former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Graham Ashton and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to discover “how we can avoid trial by media in future, how did the Court of Appeal get it so very wrong and how could an innocent man in this day and age in Victoria be jailed in the way that Cardinal Pell was”.
Douglas Drummond, former Queensland Special Prosecutor and a judge on the Federal Court of Australia, has written a powerful piece, fearlessly probing the record of Victoria Police (in particular about the Pell jailing) and the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse. He is to be commended.
The frightening bias of VicPol and the commission continues to unfold. Australia needs a thorough investigation into the background of the country’s worst ever miscarriage of justice. What happened to Cardinal Pell could happen to anyone.
I have added a tab on Victoria Police to the Cardinal Pell section of my website.
The Unexplored Shame of Victoria Police
by Douglas Drummond, Quadrant, 3 July 2020
The Catholic Church and its bishops have been subjected to a lot of deserved criticism by the Royal Commission, the media, survivors and others for their failures to deal with the sexual abuse of children by priests, particularly over the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s. Victoria Police has largely escaped criticism, though it made similar failures during this same period.
At the first public session of the Commission in August 2015, it said that, as well as religious institutions, were police force were one of the types of institutions it would be investigating.
Catholic Diocese of Ballarat
In its Final Report in Case Study 28, the Royal Commission said: “The scope and purpose of Part Two of that case study involving the Ballarat Diocese was to inquire into:
1. the response of the Diocese and of other Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat to allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy or religious
2. the response of Victoria Police to allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy or religious which took place within the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat”.
The Commission made a full inquiry into the first item. But its inquiry into the second item was in a number of respects surprisingly deficient.
Ridsdale (right) was probably the worst of the many paedophile priests in Victoria, if not Australia. Much of his offending took place in parishes in the Ballarat Diocese. The Commission noted Ridsdale was convicted in 1993, and later, of sexual offences against a total of 65 children as young as four which occurred from the 1960s until the 1980s. This was only part of his criminal activities: according to The Age report of June 14, 2002, [“Ballarat’s good men of the cloth”] just before his first trial in 1993, Ridsdale told his family of his crimes. One family member asked: “How many, Gerald. Four, or five?” “Hundreds,” was his reply.
The Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse leant so far leftwards that it threatened to fall over. Like the Tower of Pisa, the Commission needs some remedial work to prop it up. Chris Friel probes the Get Pell fiasco.
The Royal Commission as a Weapon
Chris S Friel
The Get Pell shot-gun has two barrels, Operation Tethering, the fishing expedition that looked for abuses that the Cardinal himself had committed and, set up at roughly the same time, the Victorian and then Royal Commissions into institutional child sex abuse that focussed on places where Pell lived, Ballarat and Melbourne. This essay will take a look at one aspect of a report on the latter.
The Cardinal was acquitted by the High Court of Australia last month and so the Royal Commission released its previously unredacted sections.i These include references to Pell in “Case 35”on the Archdiocese of Melbourne that among other things relate how he handled Peter Searson when in1989 he received a delegation from concerned teachers. My focus will be the way the commissioners tried to support their findings in the light of the evidence. I will explore the question of whether that evidence was weaponised as part of the Get Pell project.
Reading through the report there is no doubt that it is Archbishop Little who is damned for his abject failure to protect children. But as the Twittersphere was quick to point out, the then Auxiliary Bishop was criticised too. One example suffices to make the point:
This is KEY. The commission found “It was incumbent on Pell … with responsibilities for the welfare of the children … to take such action that [pedophile] Father Searson be removed or, at least, a thorough investigation be undertaken.” Searson died in 2009 without facing charges.i
In response, Pell made a statement that included the following:
As an Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne 1987-96, Bishop Pell met with a delegation from Doveton Parish in 1989 which did not mention sexual assaults and did not ask for Searson’s removal. Appointed Archbishop of Melbourne on 16 August 1996, Archbishop Pell placed Fr Searson on administrative leave in March 1997 and removed him from the parish on 15 May 1997. iii
Pell expressed surprise at the findings, but in truth they were eagerly awaited by his opponents who correctly sensed that the unredacted version was like Hamlet without the prince. Thus, Louise Milligan had a couple of chapters on the episode in her book, and she was ready with a thread when the full version was finally released.iv
George Weigel reflects on the standard of the royal commission that treated Cardinal Pell so shabbily. He makes the case that the commissioners, under no strict judicial rules, were fatally influenced by their biases. Not a little cowardice was perhaps also in the mix.
The Biases of the Royal Commission
George Weigel, First Things, 17 June 2020
A brief dip into Latin helps us understand how preconceptions can lead to biased judgments that falsify history—as they did when an Australian Royal Commission on sexual abuse recently impugned the integrity of Cardinal George Pell.
The Latin maxim is quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur—literally, “what is received is received according to the mode [or manner, or condition] of the receiver.” Less literally, the maxim holds that our predispositions—our mental filters—color our perceptions. Put another way, we often perceive things not as they are but because of what we are.
However abstract it may seem at first blush, the maxim is confirmed by everyday experience. People draw different conclusions about the same facts, the same personalities, and the same situations. More often than not, those differences are explained by different filters at work in our minds.
Which brings us to the misconceptions and prejudices surrounding Cardinal George Pell.