Veteran and highly respected journalist Paul Kelly wrote a long article in the Australian which covered and expanded on the issues of plausibility in the conviction of Cardinal Pell. He argues well in favour of a mistrial. Perhaps more powerfully, he argues the significance of the overwhelming hatred and contempt shown towards the Cardinal over a long period, ‘spearheaded by the ABC’; and of the Victorian Police’s anti-Catholic bigotry with its ‘fishing expedition to ensnare’ Pell. It’s vividly expressed in the passages below.
Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter QC, said his client had “been portrayed in the media and by everyone else as the evil incarnation of the Catholic Church”. That has a touch of exaggeration but the point is obvious. Ask yourself: Is there a prominent figure more denounced and traduced in this country over the past decade than George Pell?
Pell cannot escape responsibility for the failures of the church but the sustained visceral hostility towards Pell transcends institutional accountability. The vile hatred towards him is worse than displayed towards a serial killer. Veteran lawyers said privately they had never seen anything like it in their careers. What does this tell us not just about Pell but about ourselves? The Pell story goes beyond the institutional and cultural failure of the Catholic Church. It is far bigger, more complicated and dangerous.
It is about the poisoning of the culture, the anti-Catholic bias of Victoria Police and its fishing expedition to ensnare Pell, the calculated media assaults on Pell spearheaded by the ABC, the targeting of him by progressives who saw Pell (perhaps Tony Abbott aside) as the leader who most offended their every instinct — as a conservative Catholic, weak on empathy, strong on hierarchy, faithful to traditional doctrine, opposed to all aspects of sexual libertarianism, the tallest of tall poppies defending an order many wanted to pull down and the frequent target of, until now, never substantiated claims about being a sexual predator.
In a sense Pell is a leader but also a victim of his own church. Because the crimes of the church are so great our culture demands a scapegoat. Our media demands a scapegoat. The adversary and polarised nature of contemporary society means a scapegoat will be found. When the moral fault is so great, the pain of survivors so deep and the media quest for investigative retribution so pronounced, the pressures on the legal system approach breaking point.