The recent High Court decision which unanimously (seven-nil) upheld the appeal of Cardinal George Pell against the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision regarding the original trial verdict of child sexual abuse, is to be welcomed. The High Court ruled that the conviction did not meet the required standard of proof.
However, this case will go down in history as being memorable for another reason as well. And that is it highlights the problem that the current legal process involving child sexual abuse has itself a number of potential flaws. The flood of publicity—and the pre-trial shaping of public opinion—by the ABC, the usual cadre of Fairfax journalists as well as David Marr and the Amazon number #1 best-selling book by Louise Milligan, made it next to impossible for Cardinal Pell to receive a fair trial.
The ABC, though, was integral in the media witch-hunt involving Cardinal George Pell, proving that the national broadcaster is nowhere near fulfilling its original charter. For example, take a look at this tweet by Quentin Dempster which completely undermines the most basic principle of jurisprudence that a person should be considered as innocent until proven guilty:
Pell “innocent” headlines @australian. Also His Holiness @Pontifex uses the word “innocent” in a Tweet. This is a misrepresentation. Australia’s High Court has determined that Pell’s guilt had not been established “beyond reasonable doubt”. pic.twitter.com/juHYc5bDxh
— Quentin Dempster (@QuentinDempster) April 7, 2020
Or note the last line in this article by Kathleen Ferguson which concludes as though Pell’s acquittal never even occurred:
Cardinal Pell was the highest-ranking Catholic official to be convicted of child sex abuse.
Or then there’s the following interview between Greg Craven, the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian Catholic University, and ABC presenter Karina Carvalho. Pushing back against the consistent Anti-Catholic bias, Craven boldly stated:
What has happened today is that the High Court has unanimously (seven-nil!) said that the Victorian justice system got it hopelessly wrong and restored a person who has been consistently referred to—in a variety of the media, including leading members of the ABC—as a convicted paedophile, which he is now not, nor can it be said. That’s the news of the day.
It is astonishing that an organisation like the ABC which places so much emphasis on its trust is rapidly now trying to divert attention from that fundamental fact that you got it hopelessly wrong…
Craven then tried to continue but was swiftly cut off by an obviously uncomfortable Carvalho. Sadly, this is not the first time something like this has happened. And nor will it be the last. Because the ABC has a reputation for being anti-Christian.
Let me be absolutely clear. Child sex abuse is a horrific crime. And it’s not only a sexual crime, it’s also a gross abuse of power. As such, it should always be dealt with seriously, especially if it has been committed by a community leader who occupies a position of authority and trust. However, as Cardinal Pell said in his statement:
…my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic church, nor a referendum on how church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.
As uncomfortable as this truth is, we also have to acknowledge that—for a plethora of different reasons—sometimes people are confused, coached by others, or induced to give an account of the event which does not coincide with what actually took place. Even about an incredibly serious and sensitive subject such as being sexually abused. For example, just go back and read, To Kill a Mockingbird, a famous American novel from the 1960’s that was predicated on a real-life historical case.
Back in 2017, there was a segment on the ABC’s radio programme God Forbid about “coming out” as a Christian in hostile social environments. The discussion was between the host, James Carleton, and his guests Dr. Justine Toh (Centre for Public Christianity) and ABC regular Rev. Dr. Michael Jensen. When the conversation turned to hostility against Christians in (left-leaning) media workplaces, the following exchange took place:
Carleton: “You know, there’s people since I started doing ‘God Forbid’, there’s people I’ve known for years here who go, at ABC, they go, “You know, I’m a Christian”. I go, “I didn’t know that.”
Jensen: I was going to say, actually, there are people I’ve known who’ve, who’ve worked at the ABC and have said, “I’ve never outed myself as a Christian at the ABC because it would be death at the workplace; it would give a signal that I really wasn’t a serious journalist or a serious thinker. So….
Carleton: Now, can I have their names, please?
Jensen & Toh: (Laughter…)
Dr. Stephen Chavura, lecturer in history at Campion College—and formerly lecturer in political philosophy at Macquarie University—rightly makes the following observation:
Apparently, by the admission of one of its own journalists, there are Christians working at the ABC who are afraid to identify themselves for fear of persecution. This is an incredibly serious allegation being made by an employee of the ABC. Was there an investigation? Behold, the ABC’s culture of diversity.
Now that Cardinal Pell has been found innocent—unanimously seven-nil I might add—by this country’s highest court, many Catholic Australians might hope for a sympathetic, or at least neutral, reporting on issues involving their religion. But as we all know, that’s never going to happen and no one will be holding their breath.