Pell piled on by media despite innocence

Cardinal Pell

An Australian judge is endorsing an updated edition of Gerard Henderson’s book “Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt”.

It is “an important contribution to the efforts to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission – as in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada” former High Court of Australia judge Michael Kirby commented.

He considers Pell’s initial conviction was “a miscarriage of justice”.

Witch hunting

Last month at the Mass marking the first anniversary of Pell’s death, Archbishop Anthony Fisher described Pell’s conviction and imprisonment as a result of “the corrupt Victorian legal system” following a media, political and policy witch hunt.

Pell’s convictions for historical child sexual abuse were quashed by the High Court, in a seven-nil single judgment in April 2020.

“When the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney and a former High Court judge criticise the legal process in one of the most important cases in Australian criminal law, it would be expected that this would be regarded as news” Henderson says.

He expected interest from the ABC, Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian Australia – all active participants in “the Pell media pile-on” – to be interested.

“But no. They all threw the switch to effective censorship.”

Henderson says 120 journalists were “engaged in the media pile-on against Pell.

“Not one has come back to me claiming that they were misquoted and/or sought changes to the text.”

Journalists’ failure

to defend their work

is “intellectual cowardice.”

Media failure

When Henderson’s updated edition was released, Fr Frank Brennan SJ described the journalists’ failure to defend their work as “intellectual cowardice”.

Following Pell’s death, the High Court’s judgment saw some media drop references to Pell’s alleged paedophilia.

Instead, they focused on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse findings.

Henderson says its findings regarding Pell were hostile to the Cardinal.

Cardinal Pell did not act, when in a position of authority, to protect children from paedophile Catholic priests and brothers, the Commission said.

But Henderson says no forensic or documentary evidence supported that finding. Rather, the Commission found it was “inconceivable” or “unlikely” that Pell had not acted in a certain way.

“That’s not evidence, it’s opinion” says Henderson.

“Moreover, the findings were inconsistent in two important instances. It was a shoddy piece of work.”

State education hid paedophiles too

Despite having time, money and resources, the Commission did not undertake any case studies into paedophilia in government schools.

However, after the Commission closed in 2017, Tasmania’s and Victoria’s state governments have been investigating historical child sexual abuse in state schools.

Evidence shows that, like religious schools, state education departments concealed child sexual abuse and moved male teachers from school to school.

A bad name sticks

Last May, Commission chairman Peter McClellan wrote about Pell in a foreword to a book.

He said Pell told the Commission the Catholic Church did not understand the rape of a child was a crime but regarded it as a moral failure.

That claim, repeated on TV, is false says Henderson.

Pell wrote to the Commission in 2014 and, in oral testimony later, called child sex abuse “crimes”.

In 1996 while Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell established the Melbourne Response to deal with child sexual abuse.

“The archdioceses and dioceses in the rest of Australia created Towards Healing the following year” Henderson says.

“The governments of Victoria and Tasmania set up their inquiries into state schools a quarter of a century later.

“The other states and the territories have not done so.”


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