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Tag Archives: Cardinal George Pell

Pell appeal verdict unleashes a perfect storm for our Tory ruling class

Head bowed, a manacled cardinal is led hobbling out of court into a prison van, a shocking image calculated to rock our nation’s Tories to the core, last Wednesday, as Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholds Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on five counts of child sexual assault, for offences committed against two thirteen year-old altar-boys in a priest’s sacristy at St Patrick’s Church, in 1996 and 1997, whilst Pell was still Archbishop of Melbourne.

By Sunday, thank God and Rupert Murdoch, it’s all OK – at least, in Australia’s News Corp-led “mainstream media” as our corporate, oligarchical, media tribe is typically misnamed, whose stories quickly turn a convicted predator into an innocent victim. OK, too, in our progressive, post-modern, post fact, Trumpian universe of discourse, our collective, international pandemic of unreason led by lords of misrule from Boris to Bolsonaro to The Donald.

Bugger the facts, it’s the vibe that counts. As former PM Turnbull, pre-knifing by Scott Morrison, told Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of The University of Melbourne when Davis challenged Turnbull’s spin that all was rosy between town and gown. Davis dared air his heretical view that collaboration between business and university was crap.

“This is, by the way, you running against the vibe. You haven’t got the new zeitgeist. The new zeitgeist, Glyn, is to believe in yourself, is to have a go.” Did Mal’s liberating ideology help spawn ScoMo’s “have a go to get a go”?

Bugger “police, the prosecutors, the courts, the jury system, the burden of proof and the entire rule of law. In its place is the new primacy of feelings: they feel Pell must not be guilty, therefore he is innocent. All else — most significantly, the fully tested testimony of the victim that they have never seen — gives way before their emotional need.” writes Crikey’s legal beagle, Michael Bradley. Above all, our establishment must protect one of its own.

Pell can’t be guilty: he’s part of the power elite, as untouchable as Casino King, James Murdoch. Pell’s protection is necessary to preserve the power of our monocultural bunyip aristocracy. However, it’s a secular crusade now, David Marr reflects. “Rome somewhere in the past few years lost the power” to protect men like Pell.

Above all, however, is the political purpose served by the all-consuming pseudo-debate over Pell’s innocence, a diversion adroitly exploited by a Coalition keen to soft-pedal its announcement that it is eagerly doing the US bidding; taking up gunboat diplomacy in the Persian Gulf because this will help “de-escalate tensions”.

Foreign Minister, Marise Payne keeps a straight face on ABC Insiders, Sunday; farcically claiming we are part of an “international mission” which is “modest, meaningful and time-limited”. In reality, we are offering Trump a blank cheque. It’s all about restoring “rules-based order and the rule of law”. No-one mentions the fact that we are about to break international law. Trump’s administration clearly hankers for the good old days when it ran Iran.

With British help, America overthrew Iran’s democratically elected conservative Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh’s nationalist parliamentary government, in 1953, to install Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator who gave 40% of Iran’s oil concessions to US oil companies. America supported the corrupt dictator until his overthrow by a popular mass movement in 1979. As punishment, the US backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War, 22 September 1980- 20 August 1988.

It is estimated one million Iranians died defending their country. Up to half a million Iraqis also lost their lives.

The international team comprises ourselves, the Great Satan, as Iran once called the US, Little Britain under Boris Johnson, a professional clown, now playing Albion’s accidental PM and Human Rights Watch pin-up, Bahrain, a state of unabated repression whose rulers’ crack-down on dissent has eliminated all opposition banned independent media and peaceful dissidents are roughed up, arrested, prosecuted and stripped of their citizenship.

Clearly, there’s a bit our government could yet learn from Bahrain and embedding our troops with theirs is a move guaranteed to bring mutual enlightenment, the rule of law and stability to a region where eighty million Iranians are starved of daily necessities from food to medicines as a result of forty years of US sanctions.

It’s possible, of course, that the sudden appearance of an Australian cruiser in January 2020 “for six months” or a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the Middle East for one month “before the end of 2019” will prove immensely re-assuring to Iran’s government and cause citizens to hi-five and hug each other in sheer relief.

Aussie diggers posted to Bahrain, super-charged with ANZAC can-do, could repair the nation’s moral high ground.

Luckily for Morrison’s government, the Cardinal Pell in the Pokey show is the perfect distractor; a timely bit of cultural warfare guaranteed to upstage any grovelling capitulation to the whims of hawks such as Bolton or Pompeo who run demented Donald Trump and his mad, neo-con, anti-Iranian, administration.

Hard right hacks, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Bettina Arndt rush to defend Pell. Left out of the moral outrage are the 1900 child sex-offenders, identified in Australian Catholic churches, whose 4,444 victims were on average under twelve years old, according to the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. Eclipsed almost entirely, is the suffering of thousands of abused children; or how their lives were ruined.

And who knows how many victims there are in the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, abuse which Pope Francis acknowledged last February? Catholic women are speaking out, too, under the #NunsToo hashtag. In the meantime, a sanctification of Pell proceeds, by some of our best and finest reactionary media mavens.

Poor George, whose Dad, a Ballarat publican, David Marr reports, ran an SP book from the public bar of The Royal Oak, from 1953 to 1976, becomes, by mythic invention, an icon of apostolic poverty, humility, chastity and saintly compassion who will appeal to The High Court. The magical thinking of his backers has him acquitted already.

A man of such grace and standing (Peter Kidd, Chief Judge at his sentencing commented on his “staggering arrogance”, in committing crimes he thought he could get away with), will automatically be granted leave to appeal. But in the eternal interim, the very idea of a fallen Pell is a monstrous offence against nature.

Worse, the appeal judgement is a heresy right up there with Aurecon’s shunning of Adani, a move which resources High Priest, Matt Canavan says is as “weak as piss” before calling on the energy oligopoly to shun and shame Aurecon. The Australian and others in the stable eagerly recycle the lie of Pell’s unblemished record.

Yet there is no question that Pell is the reactionaries’ reactionary, a one-stop shop for any crusade against change.

Pell held that abortion was “a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.” is Papal-royalty. Boys driven to take their own lives through homophobia only had themselves to blame, Pell maintained;

It is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction. Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

Pell denounces concern about climate change as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” The Greens? “Anti-Christian”.

Pell’s perspective on accountability is clear in his view, given in 2014, that “the church’s responsibility to those abused by priests is comparable to the responsibility of a trucking company to a hitchhiker raped by a trucker.”

Monday, Pell’s media acquittal continues. The Australian’s Mirko Bagaric blusters… it debases the legal and democratic process for anyone to insist — as a few prominent commentators have in recent days — that it is impertinent to believe that Cardinal George Pell is innocent despite losing his case in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

News Corp’s contempt for the rule of law is as staggering as the propaganda it peddles to buy its monstrous power. Its defence of St George, moreover, reveals Australia’s follow-the-leader-media rushing pell-mell to fall in behind Papal knight Sir Rupert’s News Corp’s Cardinal-as-Victim story-tellers.

Part of this narrative involves appeals to sympathy for “an old sick man” “who might well die in gaol” as the current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli tells 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Bizarrely, Comensoli maintains Pell is innocent – and the victim is telling the truth too. It was another priest who committed the sexual abuse.

Easy for a thirteen year-old altar boy to get one 190 cm priest mixed up with another.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the odd guest on The Drum hold that Judge Weinberg’s dissenting view is the only one that matters or proof that our legal system is broken and or grounds for High Court appeal.

Paradoxically, another part of the story is that Pell is Australia’s most senior cleric, internationally renowned, a pal of Rupert Murdoch’s, a tall poppy cut down in his prime. The facts suggest otherwise.

At the end, Pell’s power in the Vatican rapidly waned, despite a promising start in modelling austerity by big spending. Outrage broke out over his choice of a 5100 euro a month apartment requiring he spend 87,000 on new furniture; employing an assistant on a 21,600 a month salary and even 6,650 euros on kitchen sink fittings.

Somehow word got out to Italy’s L’Espresso weekly of detailed opposition to Pell’s financial reform; not helped by his Secretariat for the Economy racking up a half-million dollars in expenditures in the last six months.

True, Pell rose to become Cardinal, but Francis, shrewdly diverted the ambitious antipodean prelate into the Sisyphean labour of draining the swamp of the Vatican’s scandalous financial mess, an impossible task – and one fraught with peril, for anyone, let alone a boy from Ballarat, who knew neither Vatican culture nor the rudiments of diplomacy or tact, author of The Melbourne Response, another monumental failure of Christian charity and human compassion which capped compensation clerical sexual abuse victims at $50,000.

They saw him coming, a retired priest says on The Drum. Rubbed them up the wrong way say Vatican insiders. Francis himself believes “Behind rigidity something always lies hidden,” he says. “In many cases, a double life.”

But nothing may detract from the Tory postmodern narrative of St George The Martyr. A man as powerful as Pell, a priest who could command a character reference from a former Prime Minister, (gasp) just cannot be guilty. The Pell pillar must be protected or the entire edifice of conservatism may be revealed to be rotten to the core.

It’s a monstrous spectacle made all the more shocking, somehow, by technical glitches which cause the live broadcast to freeze, the court website to crash and by appellant judge, Chief Justice, Anne Ferguson’s funereal delivery which brings “all the drama of a dead wombat to reading a summary of one of the most important criminal judgments of the year”, reports seasoned legal commentator, lawyer and writer, Richard Ackland.

The Tory world is in turmoil. Right-wing hacks and flacks led by News Corp, nutcase Andrew Bolt, thresh about protesting victim Pell’s innocence, slagging off Victoria’s judiciary and declaring war on the rule of law.

“Never any hope of justice for George Pell. He was too big a scalp for the howling mob,” tweets Bettina Arndt.

Could a Cardinal be so publicly undone? Could a high priest of our ruling elite, a fully-paid member of the board of Reactionary Australia Inc. be brought to heel? Could our rulers be held accountable? Perish the thought. Look at Crown.

The kid gloves are on in the federal government’s treatment of St James Packer’s Crown Casino where there is report from a whistle-blower that ought to be hair-raising. It’s a whale of a tale of high-rollers being fast-tracked through immigration, equipped with escorts before a restorative punt is followed up by a refreshing wildlife shoot.

Crown is a cathedral to our new age of mad depravity, infinitely more popular than any offering of the Catholic Church and more powerful. Crown’s backers rule our politics as the gun lobby does America’s, as former Victorian Premier John Cain observes.

Cain, whose government decided as early as 1983 that to build a casino would be to invite organised crime, warned of the power, grace and charm of casino lobbyists in 1990, “Within three weeks of me going in August 1990, they had not only battered the doors down, but they were in the lounge room pissing on the furniture.”

Sensibly, heeding their mandate from silent Australians to leave no depth unplumbed, the Morrison government summons a toothless watchdog, no-one’s ever heard of.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), a Clayton’s investigator, is agreed upon by both major parties, to allow our gambling lobby to continue to uplift the moral tone of the nation, growing jobs and building wealth, especially in the off-shore bank accounts of Crown Casino and its coterie of money-launderers.

Conspiracy theorists swarm to depict poor, vulnerable Georgie Boy as the innocent victim of a Gillard-leftist-Victoria Police-Nine News plot. In the midst of this fertile, national conversation, Scott Morrison shrewdly chooses to announce he’s just engulfed us in another US oil war which his BFF, another vainglorious lout, the dangerously demented Donald Trump is brewing up against arch-fiend Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.

“200 troops”, he says out of the corner of his mouth. “Limited to six months,” he says. “Or longer, as the case may be” he says, skipping away. Marise Payne, repeats his de-escalation double-speak, almost word-perfect as so sundry other MPs as interviews are merely an excuse for the re-iteration of central minders’ talking points.

Happily, the week brings the anniversary of Scott Morrison’s hugely undistinguished year in office, after knifing Malcolm Turnbull in a double, double-cross. His government has no energy, no environment, no economic or climate change policies, no vision and no shame. But it’s cranking up Robo-debt to go after elderly age pensioners. That blessed surplus won’t accrue all by itself.

No-one in government fusses over the two thousand who die after receiving Robo-debt letters between July 2016 and October 2018. It’s not difficult to envisage a link between their deaths and the debt letters.

Yet Morrison is now the best PM ever, according to the worst, “lying rodent” John Howard, the PM who did most to unpick the threads of a prosperous, progressive, cosmopolitan and egalitarian society and who lied to parliament and people that he had legal opinion to join the illegal US war in Iraq.

Howard also wrote a glowing reference for George Pell.

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Pell Arrives Back; Turnbull Hitches A Ride And Jeff Spills The (Coffee) Beans!

The ABC news this morning told me that Cardinal Pell had arrived back in Australia to face “historical sexual assault charges”. Now, I’m not commenting on the veracity of those charges because – as many people have pointed out – it would be wrong to deny the man a fair trial. Commenting on trials in progress is something that’s reserved for terrorism offences, but it’s the use of the word “historical” that has me bemused.

historical
hɪˈstɒrɪk(ə)l/Submit
adjective
-of or concerning history or past events.
-belonging to the past.
-(especially of a novel or film) set in the past.

Assuming we can eliminate the idea that the ABC is trying to suggest that this whole thing is a novel or film, we are left with two definitions both of which suggest that these are charges concerned with events that happened in the past.

Which is, of course, only fair because I’m sure we’d all have concerns if anyone was being charged with events that were allegedly happening in the future.

So, given anyone with half a brain and even members of the right faction of Turnbull’s government would presume that these were charges relating to things that have happened in the past, one wonders why the ABC feels it necessary to emphasise the “historical” nature of the events.

Do we get that with any other news?

“Youths charged with causing historical damage at detention centre”
“Liberals announce historical policy on marriage equality”
“Man charged with historical murder”
“Turnbull gets historical ride with Donald Trump”

Which reminds me, I meant to spend this morning writing about the great example Turnbull has set for saving money.Yep, he’s learned from Bronwyn’s infamous helicopter ride, and not only did he hitch a ride with Donald Trump, but he managed to get Macron to take him in the French plane by suggesting that because of the parlous position of Australia’s finances, both he and Lucy would be walking unless they could raise bus fare by passing round the hat, at which point the French president told him that there was room for an extra couple of passengers so long as he didn’t tell the story about how his good mate Donald gave him a lift from the hotel because everyone at the G20 had heard it at least twice.

As for his time in “the Beast” (which is the nickname for the US President’s car and not some strange initiation ritual a la David Cameron), Malcolm tells us that it was a great opportunity for some private conversation. Of course, given the famous “private conversation” where Donald was caught on tape giving his advice on “pussy” grabbing, one wonders whether it’s a wise move to accept a lift from from the Trumpeter. However, I do appreciate that the journey from the hotel to the venue would be plenty of time for both men to share all they know and to talk about the principles that they both hold dear.

But I digress… I was speculating about the use of the word “historical”.

I wanted to make it clear that I didn’t see it as an attempt by the ABC to make the charges seem less significant. Just as I didn’t mean to suggest that Miranda Devine’s suggestion that the police had made the whole thing up to distract us from the fact that there are crimes being committed as we speak, and they’re failing to catch and charge people with these historical crimes. Similarly, Andrew Bolt’s defence of George as a top bloke who historically did a lot of good historical things like launch the historical Melbourne Response just because someone needed to do something.

Jeff Kennett had a few words to say about the Melbourne Response in his column, by the way. According to Jeff:

“When evidence of pedophilia within the Catholic Church was getting increasing publicity in the mid-1990s, I invited the then archbishop Pell to my office for a coffee. It might be said that two robust individuals had a robust discussion. I suggested to the archbishop that it would be advisable if, as head of the Catholic Church in Victoria, he addressed the charges of pedophilia in a public and vigorous way.

“If not, I told him, the state of Victoria would. I did not want to take that action because I thought the church should address its behaviour and assist those it had abused, and it was not an area I felt comfortable that politicians could address. Fortunately, Pell accepted my invitation, went away and delivered what was called the Melbourne Response.

“Whether those initiatives were as complete as required, I do not know. But Pell was the first leader of any church or organisation confronted by pedophilia charges to act and he did so quickly and firmly. George Pell is innocent until found guilty of any offence. Until then he has my support and friendship.”

Now one of my nasty left-wing friends – and let’s be clear here, as Andrew Bolt tells us all left-wing people are nasty – had the temerity to suggest that the sentence: “It might be said that two robust individuals had a robust discussion” suggests that the Melbourne Response wasn’t something that George was all that keen on and that it was only with pressure from Kennett that he instituted something.

However, I imagine that the conversation was robust because they were both such robust characters.

“George, I’ve invited you here for coffee because I want to discuss your response to the accusations!”
“Jeff, I want to discuss my response!”
“Good, you do that!”
“I will!”
“SO WILL I!”
“I intend to respond strongly.”
“OK, BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD RESPOND ROBUSTLY.”
“I ALWAYS respond ROBUSTLY!”
“Great! Now, MILK?”
“PLEASE!”
“Sugar?”
“Definitely not!”

Or something like that. Anyway, what does it matter whose idea it was. It’s all historical.

Seriously Scary

Image from macrobusiness.com.au

Seriously scary (Image from macrobusiness.com.au)

As Tony Abbott’s move to the Lodge began to seem frighteningly inevitable, we started to see some serious assessments of him – not in the mainstream print or TV media of course, but in quality publications and online blogs. Thus we have David Marr’s Quarterly Essay ‘Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott’ and Waleed Aly’s ‘Inside Tony Abbott’s Mind: This is Serious’ in The Monthly, and recent blogs by Tim Dunlop on The Drum and by Brian on Larvatus Prodeo. I think Dunlop comes the closest: Abbott is a neoliberal from the right wing of the Liberal Party. The fact that the inevitability of his victory has receded doesn’t make him any less scary.

Marr suggests that Abbott wears a mask. ‘What has been abandoned?’ he asks. ‘What is merely hidden on the road to power? What makes people so uneasy about Abbott is the sense that he is biding his time, that there is a very hard operator somewhere behind that mask, waiting for power.’ But he concludes that there is ‘Values Abbott’ and ‘Politics Abbott’ in which the Politics Abbott – that is political expediency – always wins. Aly argues that Abbott is a consistent conservative in the tradition of the British theorist of conservatism, Michael Oakeshott, meaning that he favours veneration of the established institutions of society, incremental change, and respect for the diversity of views and opinions. He argues that Abbott can separate his private Catholic principles from his public policy, and further, that ‘The urge to dismiss him underestimates him completely, both as a politician and as a thinker: Tony Abbott is a serious person.’ Brian argues that religious principles are not that easily discarded. Tim Dunlop is even more forthright:With few exceptions, Mr Abbott’s approach to policy shows that he is in thrall to the voices of wealth and privilege and that, for all his claims of conservatism, he is actually leading a party that does not believe in community.’They can’t all be right.

Abbott’s Roman Catholic convictions are well known, as is his friendship with Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, himself a right wing climate change denier. Abbott has shown his allegiance to the church line by his defence of Father John Gerard Nestor, a Catholic priest convicted of child abuse. It’s also been said that one of Abbott’s heroes is the staunchly anti-communist B. A. Santamaria, the guiding light, though apparently never a member, of the Democratic Labor Party. This made me wonder if Abbot has inherited any policy positions associated with the DLP. They were at least in theory supporters of distributism, the idea arising from Catholic social theory that both big business and big unions were to be avoided in favour of small business and small farming. It is said that Santamaria was intensely unhappy with the close association of the DLP with the Liberal Party, which he rightly saw as the political representatives of the big end of town. But it would be a stretch to see Abbott’s courting of small business – the fluoro vests, pies etc. and the talk of reducing regulation – as anything other than electoral expediency. In so far as small business has different interests to big business, there is nothing concrete in LNP policy that supports small business, whereas most of what Abbott has been doing for the last three years – like opposing plain cigarette packaging, a price on carbon and the mining tax – has been very much in the interests of big business. Of course he is against the unions, but so are all Liberals; it’s hardly his Catholic perspective. My sense is that if he thinks he can get away with pushing back on abortion rights and divorce – as in the crazy idea outlined in Battlelines that fault-based divorce could be reintroduced for those who wanted it – he would do so, but that Marr and Ali are right, though for different reasons, that he wouldn’t go to the wall for such issues of identity politics.

Ali suggests that the lesson Abbott learnt when he worked for John Hewson in 1993 was to avoid ideological statements like the Fightback! manifesto which Paul Keating so successfully demolished. I think this could actually be read as ‘don’t release your policies a year out from an election,’ rather than a repudiation of what the policies were. As Ali points out, ‘it was probably the most comprehensive neoliberal blueprint for Australia ever drawn up as policy’, including abolishing awards, ‘greatly reducing the availability of bulk billing in Medicare, abolishing payroll taxes, selling off state-owned enterprises, and giving generous tax cuts to middle and upper-middle income earners.‘ The selling off of state-owned businesses has largely been done already, but there isn’t anything in the rest of the agenda that wouldn’t sit well with Abbott.

Conservatives are supposed to defend the established institutions of society. Neoliberals, on the other hand, are happy to see such institutions fall beneath the steamroller of the free market. The family, which is an institution Abbott as a Catholic is presumably committed to defending, is one which as a neoliberal, he is prepared to abandon. Ali notes that Abbott opposed the removal of the ‘no disadvantage’ test by Howard’s Workchoices legislation, which might have slightly mitigated the effect of labour market deregulation on workers’ family lives, but he was perfectly prepared to go along with the general thrust of the policy, which was blithely uninterested in the damage it was doing to the stability of family life.

What has perhaps been overlooked by some of these commentators is the degree to which Abbott appears to be influenced by not only the tactics, but also the ideology of the American Tea Party. Ali is happy with Abbott’s approach to Opposition, saying ‘Abbott has spent a lot of time thinking about precisely what an Opposition’s job is’, and quoting approvingly his statement that ‘Oppositions are there to hold the government to account. And unless we are confident that a piece of legislation is beyond reasonable doubt in the national interest, it is our duty as the Opposition to vote it down.’ This is actually more crazy talk, because an Opposition can’t by definition vote something down. But leaving that aside, this doesn’t begin to cover the relentless negativity of Abbott’s tactics, which have operated outside parliament as much as within it – the stunts, the rallies, the abuse, the three word slogans.

These slogans are also part of the Tea Party legacy. (Don’t forget the time Cory Bernardi spent in the US learning the Tea Party model – see his Conservative Leadership Foundation.) Stop the boats, end the waste, repay the debt. These are the same issues that motivate the right wing of the Republican party – though it’s Mexicans there, not boat people. Where else did he get the (erroneous) idea of attacking the debt ceiling? There is no reasoned debate, let alone alternative proposals. This sort of unthinking market fundamentalism is a hallmark of the Tea Party; nothing that they might learn about the reality of a situation causes them to waver from their narrow ideological path. Anti-intellectualism is an article of faith. That’s exactly the approach to public policy that Abbott demonstrates.

So what does this add up to? Abbott is not a conservative. His Catholicism is relatively unimportant in his politics. He is a neoliberal above all else. He is a calculating one, who will put electoral advantage first, but this doesn’t mean he has a particularly nuanced position. His latest effort on an emissions trading scheme – ‘it’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance, to no one’ – suggests that his grasp of the theory of the market economy is indeed weak – it seems he got this attempted sound bite from the Daily Telegraph, in London – but that doesn’t lessen his reliance on it. Just read Tim Dunlop’s excellent article for the details of the policies announced so far. Think of him, as Marr says, ‘waiting for power.’ Still saying Abbott is ‘a serious person’, Ali? Certainly the idea of him as Prime Minister is serious. Seriously scary.

 

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