Pell and Justice

THOSE WHO PERVERT JUSTICE TO CONDEMN AN INNOCENT MAN merit a special place in hell. I speak objectively; there can be subsequent repentance, and the mercy of God is unfathomable and works to a divine plan beyond our ken. If one believes truly that Cardinal Pell is guilty then their outrage is comprehensible; yet one wonders if they have taken any time over the evidence, or whether they are motivated by the desire to “get Pell”.

Mr Justice Mark Weinberg QC dissented from the Court of Appeal’s majority judgment and upheld the appeal:

“I am troubled by the fact that I find myself constrained to differ from two of my colleagues whose opinions I always respect greatly,” he wrote.

“That has caused me to reflect even more carefully upon the proper outcome of this application. Having done so, however, I cannot, in good conscience, do other than to maintain my dissent.”

Apparently his judgment takes up 200 pages of the 325 page judgment. I am yet to read it. However it seems that the judges making the majority judgment felt constrained to believe the alleged victim:

But Chief Justice Ferguson and Justice Maxwell accepted the prosecution’s submission that Pell’s surviving victim was a compelling witness, “clearly not a liar”, “not a fantasist” and a witness of truth.

The Age (Melbourne), 21/8/19

In light of the recent travesty of justice and common sense wrought in England by Carl Beech, whom the Metropolitan Police fell over themselves to believe, to the point of misleading a judge in gaining a search warrant; and given that the other alleged victim, now sadly deceased, maintained that he had not been abused by Pell, the majority judges’ stance seems unconvincing.

The Victorian Court of Appeal, from left, Chief Justice Ferguson, Justice Maxwell, and Justice Weinberg

It seems that Cardinal Pell’s defence team made at least two significant mistakes at the original trial. The first, as some have been commenting here, is that Cardinal Pell was not called to give evidence in his defence. This allowed the complainant’s testimony to hold the floor.

The second error was relying on an animated presentation to demonstrate the logistical and physical impossibility of the crimes of which Cardinal Pell was accused. Chief Judge Kidd of the County Court disallowed the animation. Why were the jurors not taken to the cathedral to see for themselves the layout, the nature of a post-liturgical procession to the sacristy at Melbourne’s cathedral, the vestments that Cardinal Pell would have been wearing? If there was a good reason for this I am yet to learn it. It seems to be a spectacular failing in the defence approach.

Instead, in light of inadequate and insufficient evidence to demonstrate the manifest impossibility of the alleged crime, and the failure to allow Cardinal Pell to speak in his defence, the flimsy evidence of the alleged victim was allowed to hold attention. Add to this the prejudicial atmosphere prior to the trial and I begin to see how, possibly, a jury might have been swayed to give credence to the incredible.

Cardinal Pell returns to solitary confinement, the deprivation of celebrating Mass, and I am told, the total absence of access to sunshine. We must pray for him, and those who, for whatever reason, have falsely accused him.

And the cardinal must appeal to the High Court of Australia, an august court outside the borders of Victoria and beyond popular manipulation. To do this is not only for his sake, but for the sake of every priest. No priest is safe now. #prayersforpell

Alexander Downer—former Australian foreign minister and Australian High Commissioner to the UK—on Radio 4 this morning that we sympathise the victim. But what of you do not believe, on the basis of the evidence, that there ever was a victim; how can one symapthise with someone whom one believes does not exist?

#prayersforpell

IN A LITTLE OVER 24 HOURS we should know the outcome of Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction for child abuse by a jury in the Victorian County Court. It need hardly be said to anyone who has followed the course of the legal action against him that the evidence adduced against him seemed entirely incapable of sustaining a conviction. Yet it did, but only after an earlier trial was unable to convict him on the same charges. A second trial covering separate allegations collapsed. This is neither the time nor the place to examine the extent and the causes of the toxic atmosphere that had been created prior to the trial and which arguably made it impossible for an unprejudiced jury to be empanelled.

His tenures as archbishop in both Melbourne and Sydney were controversial and a significant section of the Church in Australia found him doctrinally too robust and heavy-handed in authority. Even so many of those who have held such an opinion of him are incredulous at the jury’s verdict, as are many secular commentators. Pell earned widespread respect for his attempts to reform the complex financial webs of the Vatican curia; all of his reforms have been undone or undermined.

For now we can only pray for him; he endures a particularly harsh form of imprisonment in remand—in solitary confinement, restricted access to visitors, denied the consolation of offering Mass.

All who support him and all who do not—all who think him innocent and all who do not—should surely be able to unite in a common prayer: that justice be done on Wednesday. If this conviction stands on such grossly inadequate evidence then, quite apart from the cardinal’s personal suffering and cross, there is another ugly corollary with an effect beyond his own person: if one of the most powerful cardinals in the Church can brought down by false allegations, no priest is safe.

May the Lord be gracious in his justice to those who are falsely accused, and merciful to those whose mouths utter lies. May he be swift to vindicate the innocent, and slow to punish those by whom the innocent fall.

**update here**

The Burden of the Homily

RECENTLY A PRIEST—not a fellow monk—lamented how hard he was finding it to “get anything” for a homily from this Sunday’s readings. The first reading covers an attempt to kill the prophet Jeremiah, the epistle is from Hebrews reminding us of the cloud of witnesses who urge us on in the race of Christian living, and the gospel shows Jesus revealing he has come to bring fire to the earth and division to society, an awkward gospel for purveyors of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

The priestly lament is a reminder of how much a burden the homily has become to many a hearer, and perhaps even more to many a preacher, in the celebration of the ordinary form of the Mass. This is almost invariably the fruit of a misunderstanding of the homily that has taken on almost dogmatic status: the homily must always and only be about the readings of the day. Continue reading “The Burden of the Homily”

Saving the New Mass?

This is being written on an iPad Mini screen, which makes writing anything beyond small gobbets a penitential work. But perhaps life could do with some more penance. Anyway, prepare for typos while I prepare for slings and arrows.

At present I am staying at the small but fervent Monastère St Benoît, in the steamy hills beyond St Tropez, and over the past week uncomfortably hot for one now acclimatised to the gentle summers of England. Of the many virtues of this house, apart from its excellent liturgical life, can be numbered its excellent liturgical library and the encyclopaedic liturgical knowledge of the prior, Dom Alcuin Reid. Both have enabled me to make some progress in preparing for a research proposal.

Yesterday was published online the text of Dom Alcuin’s paper at the recent colloquium of the Church Music Association of America in Philadelphia. The paper is entitled Reflections on authority in liturgy today. Continue reading “Saving the New Mass?”

A Little Lay Theology

When we read poetry, we turn down argument and crank up perception. That’s why theology in poetry—such as hymnody—can be so captivating, and articulate things in a way that is à point. This little nugget from Les Murray (†) strikes me in such a way:

THE KNOCKDOWN QUESTION

Why does God not spare the innocent?

The answer to that is not in
the same world as the question
so you would shrink from me
in terror if I could answer it.

Les Murray, from “Poems the Size of Photographs” (2002)

They Pretend Not to Notice

On 29 April this year Les Murray (b. 1938) died. He was the nearest Australia had to a poet Laureate. He was not from a privileged background, though neither was he raised amidst abject poverty. He was born and grew up on the rural north coast of New South Wales, not too far from Taree, in a district with the delightful Australian name of Bunyah. He was a countryman and never an urban sophisticate. His characteristic physical bulk emerged while he was at school, making this time not wholly happy for him. The death of his mother after a miscarriage when he was 12 was no doubt a trauma that marked him. He was a republican, but no one is perfect; he was not obnoxious about it, and apparently delighted the Queen when he received from her hand the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1999. He was an idealist not an ideologue. He promoted the rights of the indigenous population in Australia before it was chic, or “woke,” to do so. Having been prone to depression, the black dog left him after he endured a coma of three weeks resulting from a tumour on his liver.

What you will find it difficult to discover in the obituaries of the secular press, both in Australia and in Britain, is that Les Murray was a committed and practising Catholic. Continue reading “They Pretend Not to Notice”