April 21st 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

CANBERRA OBSERVED Malcolm at 30 (polls): the cloud on Turnbull's horizon

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell firmly denies sex abuse allegations

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Sydney Archdiocese aims to eliminate slavery in supply chain

RURAL DEVELOPMENT Irrigation along Fitzroy River proposed and opposed

LIFE ISSUES Abortion Rethink Summit: the case for care

VERBATIM WA food, drink producers face shortage of carbon dioxide

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY Land costs: economist Henry George's solution

ELECTRICITY Will Turnbull lose three out of three?

ECONOMICS Trade wars: tariffs unlikely to be fired in anger

SEX AND TEENS How about support for the abstaining majority?

VISUAL ARTS Layers of meaning in Botticelli's La Primavera and The Birth of Venus

MUSIC Is it good?: Or, do we just like the sound it makes?

CINEMA The Death of Stalin: Black comedy of a dark time

BOOK REVIEW Cool head on topic that generates heat

BOOK REVIEW Life's not so bad: from the outside



OPINION What a republic would really mean for Australia

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Cardinal Pell firmly denies sex abuse allegations

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 21, 2018

As the four-week committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court concluded, Cardinal George Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter QC, stated that there was no evidence to support charges of historical sexual abuse against his client, after the examination of accusers and witnesses ended.

Cardinal George Pell

Mr Richter will make his concluding statement on April 17, and the police prosecutor will do likewise.

The magistrate issued a prohibition order concerning the charges against Cardinal Pell. The first two weeks of the committal hearing were conducted in camera, so no details of this evidence have been released.

After this evidence was heard, there were about two weeks of hearings in open court.

According to Channel NewsAsia, the defence asserted that police had been gravely defective in their investigations. Mr Richter highlighted the failure to follow up witnesses whose evidence contradicted that of complainants, and a failure to test basic evidence, such as whether Cardinal Pell was at the alleged location at particular times.

In one instance, religious sisters had contradicted claims by an accuser that Cardinal Pell had been at a particular place and time. Nevertheless, police still brought charges based on the accuser’s evidence.

Cathedral choir

In another instance, a former member of the St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir made claims of abuse which were contradicted by many other members of the choir. But police took no statements from them, although the defence had supplied such material to the police to assist their investigations.

A police witness dismissed their evidence, telling the court that additional statements along the same lines would not have taken matters any further for police, ABC News reported on March 28.

At the hearing, evidence was given by priests based at the Cathedral at the time which showed that it was not possible for Cardinal Pell to have done what had been alleged.

The complainant also alleged that another boy had been with him at the time, but that boy has since died of a drug overdose. The father of this boy told the court that he was close to his son and that his son had spoken to him often about his drug addiction. But at no time did he make any allegations against Cardinal Pell.

The ABC and The Australian also reported that one police witness, Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan, had confirmed that in 2013, the police had set up an operation, called Operation Tethering, to obtain information incriminating Cardinal Pell, despite the fact that no complaint had been made about him, nor was there any evidence of misconduct.

Mr Richter said: “When [Operation] Tethering started, it was an operation looking for a crime because no crime had been reported. It was an operation looking for a crime and a complainant.”

ABC News reported on further sensational evidence given to the Court by Detective Superintendent Sheridan.

Supt Sheridan agreed that there had been a search for potential complainants but that no one had come forward until more than a year after the police investigation had begun.

It is significant that a representative of the victims’ group, Broken Rites, and a law firm, Waller Legal, which both put forward allegations of abuse against Cardinal Pell, were examined in court.

In further extraordinary testimony, a police witness revealed that police had intended to arrest Cardinal Pell when he was summoned to return to Australia to give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In the event, for health reasons, Cardinal Pell did not return to Australia, and instead gave evidence from Rome, where he was serving as the Vatican’s chief financial officer.

Mr Richter put it to the police witness on that occasion, Detective Senior Constable David Rae, that it would have been illegal to arrest Cardinal Pell just to question him. Nonetheless, the effect of a public arrest of Cardinal Pell would have created a media sensation, and poisoned the public against him.


It is interesting to compare the police treatment of Cardinal Pell with that involving a teacher at Ballarat Grammar School in the 1970s, reported in the Ballarat Courier on March 28, 2018.

In this case, a teacher had a sexual relationship with a student, then aged 15, for a period of years, including at his home and in a rented apartment.

This is about the same time that alleged incidents occurred involving Cardinal Pell when he was a priest in Ballarat.

In the case of the teacher, no charges were ever laid against him, and the matter only came to light because the complainant took the matter to the Victorian Institute of Teaching, which referred it to a panel to determine whether the teacher’s registration should be cancelled.

In the event, the panel concluded that the teacher was guilty of “serious misconduct”, but decided that in all the circumstances, he should keep his teacher registration.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm