Keith Windschuttle, editor of Quadrant Magazine, has written a book that is a must-read for those Australians who fondly think we live in a society unassailably based on the rule of law. Here he gives an account of the focus of his book.
A Kafkaesque Scenario
Keith Windschuttle, Editor, Quadrant Magazine
The case of Cardinal George Pell and child sexual abuse is still not finished. There is the matter now being investigated by the Australian Federal Police about whether Pell’s opponents within the Vatican sent money to Australia to try to influence public opinion and legal proceedings. However, given the enthusiasm to persecute Pell displayed by those arrayed against him in Australian legal and media circles, if such bribery did exist it was probably wasted. As Humbert Wolfe observed long ago, when you see what they will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.
Moreover, with today’s benefit of hindsight over the competing perspectives that now come into view, the Pell case seems even more important on levels other than the multi-pronged witch hunt by the desperate characters who brought him down. Above all, the case is a demonstration of the fragility of the rule of law and of civilised social and professional relationships. Within the ideological imperatives that prevail today, any one of us could become George Pell. We could be accused by strangers of reprehensible behaviour, and then find the weight of the nation’s structures of law, government and public opinion piled on top of us—a Kafkaesque scenario.
Pell was lucky to be saved at the last minute by his only remaining hope, the judges of the Australian High Court. They retained enough independence and integrity to see the truth of his case as it was. However, these qualities had been beyond the ability of the majority of judges in the Victorian Court of Appeal and beyond the comprehension of the six former judges and legal officials who sat on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, all of whom displayed embarrassing failings in the logic of their findings. There are no guarantees that future members of the High Court will act as creditably as those who acquitted Pell.
In my book published last month, The Persecution of George Pell (Quadrant Books, 408 pages, $39.95), I not only cover the minutiae of police, court and Royal Commission proceedings in what defence counsel Robert Richter accurately described as “Operation Get Pell” from 2013 to 2020, but also place it within the history of the culture wars, political ideology and consequent changes to legal procedures related to sexuality that have accumulated since the 1960s.