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.
George Weigel is an internationally known American author, political analyst, and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He is a highly regarded speaker. He wrote the foreword to Tess Livingstone’s book GEORGE PELL published in 2002. Weigel pays generous tribute to George Pell’s qualities as a Catholic bishop. He already notes the vicious incomprehensible slander that the newly appointed Archbishop of Sydney received. Much of that slander has become the accepted ‘truth’ about Pell.
FOREWORD to GEORGE PELL by Tess Livingstone
Duffy & Snelgrove, Sydney 2002
Dr George Pell’s appointment as Archbishop of Sydney was a major news story across Australia — one that I could follow in real-time in Washington, DC, thanks to the Internet. Having been Down Under just five months before Dr Pell’s March 2001 transfer from Melbourne, I thought I knew at least something about the robust give-and-take of Aussie journalism. But it was difficult to recognize the George Pell I had known for almost 35 years in many of the reports I read on his appointment to Sydney.
Continue reading George Pell – ‘a challenge to the dominant consensuS’
George Weigel of DC’s Ethics and Public Policy has said in First Things what many of us believe: Australian Justice is in the Dock. To make his point, he provides a timeline of what Cardinal Pell was subjected to from 2013 to the present. He concludes:
In the wake of last month’s incomprehensible and (as measured by Judge Weinberg’s dissent) dangerous rejection of Cardinal Pell’s appeal, Catholic voices were heard expressing (or demanding) respect for the justice system in Australia. Perhaps the Vatican press spokesman must say such things for diplomatic purposes, although the reason why diplomatic concerns trump truth and justice in the Holy See Press Office is unclear. But as this chronology indicates, there is no reason to respect a process that reeks of system failure at every point, from the dubious and perhaps corrupt police investigation through the committal hearing, the two trials, and the appeal. There are guilty parties here. But Cardinal George Pell is not one of them.
As this scandalous process approaches the High Court of Australia, friends of Australia, both Down Under and throughout the world, must send a simple message, repeatedly: George Pell is an innocent man who was falsely accused and has been unjustly convicted of crimes he did not commit. It is not George Pell who is in the dock, now, but the administration of justice in Australia. And the only way to restore justice is for Cardinal Pell to be vindicated by the highest court in the land.
Those who cannot bring themselves to say that, in Australia or elsewhere, necessarily share in the ignominy that Australian criminal justice has, thus far, brought upon itself.
George Weigel Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center has followed up his previous condemnation of Cardinal Pell with the following bringing into question Australia’s system of justice.
Has it occurred to anyone else debating the perverse verdict rendered against Cardinal George Pell, which convicted him of “historic sexual abuse,” that the cardinal did not have to return to his native Australia to face trial? As a member of the College of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church and a Vatican official, Pell holds a Vatican diplomatic passport and citizenship of Vatican City State. Were he guilty, he could have stayed put in the extraterritorial safety of the Vatican enclave, untouchable by the Australian authorities. But because Cardinal Pell knows he is innocent, he was determined to go home to defend his honor—and, in a broader sense, to defend his decades of work rebuilding the Catholic Church in Australia, the living parts of which owe a great deal to his leadership and courage.
Cardinal Pell and I have been friends for over fifty years, and in the past two and a half decades of that friendship I have been appalled at the calumnies to which he has been subjected, in both the hyper-secularist Australian media and in Church circles determined to hang on to their dreams of post–Vatican II revolution.