Two things were predictable following yesterday’s decision by the High Court to grant Cardinal George Pell leave to to appeal his conviction in Victoria on fanciful charges of child rape. First, that Louise Milligan – den mother to the nation’s anti-Pell monomaniacs – would address her followers:
“Whatever happens today, I hope it’s treated with solemnity it deserves. I hope kindness is shown by those who should know better to those who need it. Many will hold their breath before 9.30, feeling familiar little stabs. Those who understand that pain are thinking of you.”
Let’s hope they’re not still holding their breath. But who are these “many”? There is, after all, only one “victim.” If Milligan is referring to all victims of sexual abuse as a class she is disregarding Justice Peter Kidd’s very strict admonition at sentencing. The Cardinal was not convicted as a generalised scapegoat for the crimes of anyone else. To have done so, said Justice Kidd, or even for “other victims of clerical or institutional sexual abuse who may be present in court today or watching or listening elsewhere” to see Pell’s conviction thus – would be “contrary to the rule of law” and “not be justice at all.”
The transmogrification of the Cardinal is the second predictable thing. Advocacy groups, real victims of other clerics and generic anti-Catholic dullards insist that his lawful pursuit of acquittal on appeal amounts to secondary molestation. That’s the unctuous pretext anyway. The actual motivation for the claimed nexus between Pell defending himself and victims being traumatised has very little to do with concern for abuse survivors. It mostly has to do with a deep-seated anxiety in Pell haters that he might eventually come out on top. If all of the perversions of justice that led to his solitary confinement are overturned, the perverters will be at risk of opprobrium, sanctions and – most dreaded of all – political humiliation. Questions would be asked, people would be sued, reputations would be damaged, money would be lost and books would be pulped. Never before in Australian history have so many powerful people been so heavily invested in a miscarriage of justice. Wilfully miscast as a humbled heavyweight, big man Pell is in fact the little guy in this story.
Postscript: The father of the deceased former choirboy (who denied he was ever abused by Pell) has issued via Shine Lawyers to news.com a thoroughly strange letter to the Pope advocating, inter alia, married and women priests. He apparently had no idea where his teenage son was at any given time (or that he was a heroin user) but he’s watched enough television to know what’s wrong with Catholicism. He is suing Pell and the Church for damages. He doesn’t want much from this. Just an ecumenical council and a payday. His lawyer also issued a press release yesterday stating that her client is “gutted” by the High Court granting Pell leave to appeal. That’s because there won’t be much chance of a damages claim succeeding if he is acquitted.