Criminal News
Curiosities from the world, criminal news

The inconsistencies of George Pell’s defenders just display their power | Richard Cooke

0 0
loading...

What happens when the Australian establishment lines up behind a convicted paedophile?

“Supporting a convicted pedophile is morally wrong” was an uncontroversial statement in Australia a few days ago. It is no longer, and that change – really a tectonic one – has shifted the grounds of debate so far it is hard to know where to stand. It is a shift that began immediately as well: minutes after Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on child sexual assault charges, a former deputy prime minister was shaking his hand. Within hours, he had the character endorsement of one former prime minister, and the phoned-in counsel of another. The evening Pell’s conviction was made public the pages of our largest media organisation were being used to attack the courts, the jury system and the rest of the press on his behalf.

loading...

Pinch yourself – that really is the same media organisation that harried a woman into exile after an insensitive Facebook post. The same prime ministers who thought the appropriate response to (false) Aboriginal child abuse claims, not convictions, was sending in the army.

But there will be no troops at St Patrick’s tomorrow.

There are so many monstrous hypocrisies in this display – the fulminating over law and order suddenly silent, the hysteria over paedophilia put into reverse, a “faith community” refusing to denounce its own criminal element – that detailing them is futile.

Pell’s defenders cannot be shamed by their inconsistencies. It is exactly that inconsistency that displays their power: the power to discriminate, the power to punish and the power to protect. A man orally raped two 13-year-old boys, and now that power protects him.

For once, the ethical crudity of the shock jocks is clarifying, even welcome. Ray Hadley is almost alone among conservatives in backing the verdict reached by the jury, or at least respecting it.

“I think it would have been more prudent to allow justice to take its course before a public exhibition of their support for a now-convicted paedophile,” he said on Thursday morning. “It’s impossible to put ourselves in the position of the jury because they’re the only ones who heard that evidence.”

These statements of the bleeding obvious are suddenly refreshing, and right now the flimsy thing preventing the culture war becoming totalising.

The law is complex, and an appeals process is still to take place. But Pell’s defenders have not decided on his guiltlessness after a careful review of the evidence. They do not know what that evidence is. They have not sat in on the trial, or reviewed its transcripts. It seems they did not – and this is damning – even take the time or have any inclination to read unsuppressed media reports before weighing in.

The options of saying nothing, or waiting for more information, were available to them, but they did not take them. Instead, they began with Pell’s position, and his politics, and reverse engineered his innocence from there. I would like to believe this is not merely a partisan exercise but I keep coming undone on a single word and its synonyms: unthinkable.

Because apparently these crimes are unthinkable. How would a man of such seniority, and such faith (whom they had met!) commit such acts? Why would he act so publicly and so spontaneously? Why had his victims taken so long to come forward?

Here’s my question: where have these people been?

Did these past decades of institutional child abuse never happen? Were they looking away the whole time? Has everything we learned – painfully – about the damage it does, and its shame, been unlearned? Can it be still unrecognised that abusers groom whole communities as well as individual children? Of all the implausible excuses available, surely “but how could a priest do this?” must rank close to the top.

The jury did not buy Robert Richter’s very expensive defence, but for Pell’s defenders it has become an article of faith. And that faith needs miracles: cloth that is immovable, slits that are at the same time not an “opening”, schoolboys incapable of dodging authority, rope that cannot be untied, abuse that is either reported in an instant or never existed.

When this is the response even to a conviction, you know why victims fear they will be disbelieved and discredited. That fear is correct, warranted and will be made stronger than ever before by this disgrace.

On top of this straw-clutching is a layer of active disinformation, lying and irrelevance. It is not true that priests rarely abuse their victims without grooming. It may be true that Pell is a “lively conversationalist” but he is not on trial for being a bad raconteur. As for the man of high office, the man that I knew, the man who is so privately charitable, the man who would never … These words already appear in tens of thousands of case files. How many more are needed?

Those files also find priests who raped children not just in the sacristy but at the altar. They molested children not only in public but in front of their own family members, sometimes in the same moving car. They raped them while wearing vestments, not only orally but anally as well. That same untieable cincture has been used to bind the hands of a 16-year-old boy, who was then raped so viciously he needed corrective surgery. Opportunistic priests have acted in windows of time not just after mass, but on school excursions in public toilets. They have snuck into a hospital to rape a seven-year-old girl. They have molested every daughter in a five-daughter family.

So what about Pell’s case is implausible, or even unusual? For anyone willing to look, it is almost humdrum, once compared to the vast, prolific compendium of international crime his institution has compiled.

Unthinkable? What his defenders really mean is that they cannot bear thinking about it.

Richard Cooke is the Monthly’s contributing editor and US correspondent

Original »

loading...
Comments
Loading...