Frank Brennan’s Offensive Defence

IN those rare forums where, over the past few years, Australians have been free to express dismay and anger about the (as yet unpunished) offences committed by lawyers, politicians, broadcasters, reporters, publishers, police and several perjurers against Cardinal George Pell, Fr Frank Brennan SJ has been lauded as righteous among the factions. A member of one of the country’s preeminent legal families, Brennan has a track record for campaigning on behalf of those denied the impartial salve of natural justice. This he does as a lawyer on a human rights mission and as a conventional Jesuit imbued with the inflexible liberalism that defines the Society. That he was famously across the aisle, if not the nave entire, from Pell on theology, politics, the environment, republicanism and moral doctrine made his criticism of the phony case against the Cardinal all the more newsworthy. Well and good, then, as far as it goes.

But how hearty do congratulations really need to be for a priest/lawyer speaking up for a brother in Holy Orders under mendacious attack or for stating what was plainly obvious to a majority of legal practitioners? There is aptness in gratitude here but not in laurels. Moreover, in the edited extract of his new book on the Pell disgrace published last week in The Australian (read it here), Brennan argues eccentrically the man is innocent but also responsible for his own imprisonment. If only he had worked closely with the other bishops (who were neither canonically obliged nor inclined to do so); if only he had returned from Rome to testify for a third time to a corrupted Royal Commission (he was not medically fit to fly); if only he had personally testified in court (he was following advice which, for all we know, may have paid off – albeit later). “Pell paid for these mistakes,” Fr Brennan asserts, “with 404 days of wrongful imprisonment.”

While the resemblance is compelling, this isn’t anything so crude as blaming the victim. Brennan is putting an awkward episode of fraternity with Pell behind him and re-demonising him as much as prudence allows. This is penitential vanity. Why declare that “I’m a critic but George Pell really was treated unjustly”? He was treated unjustly – period.

Other statements made by Brennan are risible, disgraceful and even un-Christian. “Pell has been emblematic of the Australian Catholic Church for decades,” he bizarrely claims. In fact, the former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney was the jeered Rev. Pat Malone of the hierarchy for his entire episcopal career. The anti-Pell world-appeasers and Vatican II idolaters were the emblematic ones. When VicPol and the ABC came clubbing, they fled the garden starkers. “Though convinced of his innocence, I still don’t subscribe to his culture wars,” Brennan sniffs – ironically, an olive branch to the secular left and the Church’s Geraldine Doogue wing whose passion for culture warring is as ISIS-ian as it is Sisyphean. And seriously – his culture wars? Whereat the pope’s Ignatian confrère feels tactically obliged to mention – in pious-heretical contrast to the innocent ogre of the hour – the “theological possibility” of women’s ordination and gay marriage.

Brennan’s concluding condescension is the nastiest and most deplorable. He hopes – “for the good of the Australian church” – that “Pell’s influence over episcopal appointments will wane.” It was Tertullian who said that the blood of the martyrs is seed for the Church. No, George Pell didn’t die but every conceivable attempt was made to kill him. And that is not close to being an exaggeration. Psychologically, spiritually, reputationally, existentially, professionally and – given the life-ending fate rigged for him – even physically, the motive was homicidal. Pell may not be a martyr literally but he’s the next bloodiest thing. Why would anyone who loves the faith want this Christian hero’s example to wane in the life of the Church? Why would a priest who grants Pell was innocent want Catholics and their bishops to return to priestesses and homosexuality – like dogs to their vomit – when these were the rustiest nails of justification used to pierce him? Because Catholic liberals are now traditionalists who want things to go back to the way they were.

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30 Responses to Frank Brennan’s Offensive Defence

  1. C.L. says:

    I’m a critic but George Pell really was treated unjustly: Frank Brennan

    Pope John Paul II’s biographer George Weigel, writing the introduction to Cardinal George Pell’s Prison Journal, describes me as one who “had previously held no brief for Cardinal Pell (and) a severe critic”. I plead guilty.

    Nevertheless, having attended parts of his two criminal trials and having studied all the publicly available transcript, I am convinced of Pell’s innocence of the criminal charges he faced. I am convinced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse failed to accord him natural justice in its pursuit of a necessary big scalp for media delectation.

    Australia’s Catholic Church continues to deal with the legacy of Pell, who like many other Australians before 1996 — when he set up the Melbourne Response protocol to deal with abuse allegations — had little sensitivity to the pervasive reality of child sexual abuse in institutions and did little to ensure abuse could not occur within such settings.

    No doubt the legacy would be easier to bear if Pell had worked closely with all his fellow bishops when designing the first protocols. The public ignominy would have been less if he had returned to Australia to front the royal commission rather than remaining in Rome for his third appearance by video link at night-time. People thought he had something to hide.

    He would have had a better chance of the jury acquitting him in the first instance if he had gone into the witness box, subjecting himself to strenuous cross-examination, as had the complainant. Australians now have a low tolerance of bishops employing tough defence counsel to cross-examine complainants while the bishops sit mute.

    Pell paid for these mistakes with 404 days of wrongful imprisonment, much of it in solitary confinement. The time has come to attest that Pell worked tirelessly and to the best of his ability from 1996 to put right the dreadful consequences of institutional child sexual abuse. Pell faced charges that should never have been brought, a prosecution that was malicious, a Victorian appeal court that got it very wrong, and a media campaign that was relentlessly prejudiced.

    Attitudes have changed about all manner of things since 1996. There have been six prime ministers since Pell was first made an archbishop. In our Westminster-style parliaments, elected leaders from both sides of politics turn over with sufficient rapidity that they are not held personally responsible for institutional failures of previous generations.

    A bishop embodies functions of both politician and civil servant. Bishops such as Pell who preside over dioceses for decades come to embody the institution, including its failures. Pell has been emblematic of the Australian Catholic Church for decades.

    Catholics continue to be identified as pro-Pell or anti-Pell. Though convinced of his innocence, I still don’t subscribe to his culture wars. I’ve come to enjoy his company and admire his resolute courage. We will continue to disagree over matters such as the theological possibility of papal approval of women’s ordination and the jurisprudential justification for civil laws recognising the unions of same-sex couples and describing them as marriage.

    I do hope for the good of the Australian church that the intrigue about Vatican financial scandals will abate, and Pell’s influence over episcopal appointments will wane. On June 8, Pell turns 80. He will no longer be eligible to vote at conclave. He will stand for the rest of his days as a distinctive Australian crossbreed of sacrificial lamb and scapegoat wearing a tall poppy fleece.

    This is an edited extract from Frank Brennan’s Observations on the Pell Proceedings (Connor Court), released this week to mark the first anniversary of George Pell’s acquittal by the High Court of Australia.

  2. Roger says:

    I do hope for the good of the Australian church that the intrigue about Vatican financial scandals will abate…

    Just pray, pay and obey your ecclesiastical betters, lay Catholics.

  3. Cassie of Sydney says:

    “I’m a critic but George Pell really was treated unjustly: Frank Brennan”

    I’m not a Catholic nor even a Christian but I know for a fact that Cardinal George Pell really was treated unjustly. In fact Frank Brennan, I knew from the beginning that I was witnessing a lynching.

  4. Jannie says:

    As a lapsed Catholic I don not know if I would be described as pro Pell or anti Pell, or what side he is on in the so called culture war, except that I would probably disagree with him, like I have almost every priest I ever met.

    But I know this, he was treated unfairly and unjustly, he was cynically stitched up by a cabal of Leftist apparatchiks who are dragging Australia into an authoritarian dictatorship. So I support him.

  5. Boambee John says:

    Two bob each way.

    First, he acknowledges that he and Cdl Pell have been on the opposite sides of every theological and social issue for decades. Then he states his firm belief in Cdl Pell’s innocence. Then he goes back to remind us that he and Cdl Pell have been on the opposite sides of every theological issue for decades.

    To me, regardless of his attempt to have the last word on every theological and social issue, his statement of innocence is a real slap in the face for the perpetrators of a grave injustice, one that they have to swallow or have him turn on them.

  6. Biota says:

    Damning with faint praise was my take from Brennan’s piece.

  7. Roger says:

    Two bob each way.

    Well, he is a Jesuit.

  8. johanna says:

    Alas, Jesuits, once a highly intellectual Order, have sunk to being lawyers who will argue whatever side is required. Or both, as in this case.

    Brennan is talking out of both sides of his mouth. His words are worthless.

  9. Bela Bartok says:

    Typical of the leftism infecting (having fully infected) the Church.
    Wants to flaunt his anti-conservative values as a talisman of protection against the woke, whilst trying to do the right thing.
    Anyone who apologises for doing good is not doing good.
    False prophet, false friend. Woke compatriot.
    Such lack of charity is emblematic but deeply disappointing. Francis would be proud.

  10. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Brennan argues eccentrically the man is innocent but also responsible for his own imprisonment.

    He should read the account of Stephen again. It wasn’t Stephen’s fault they stoned him. Indeed I find the picture of the Sanhedrin sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting at the tops of their voices to avoid hearing the truth very like the ABC and the Get Pell bunch.

  11. John A says:

    johanna says: April 11, 2021, at 1:11 pm

    Alas, Jesuits, once a highly intellectual Order, have sunk to being lawyers who will argue whatever side is required. Or both, as in this case.

    Brennan is talking out of both sides of his mouth. His words are worthless.

    Well, not quite, Johanna.

    I would compare (but not contrast) Brennan with Balaam’s donkey in Numbers 22: a miraculously unlikely speaker of the Truth. On this point to be accepted but on all else to remain dumb and probably witless.

  12. Figures says:

    It’s an easy marker of a person isn’t it?

    You either believe everything that happened to Pell was disgusting or you’re an evil commie piece of excrement.

    There’s no other type of person.

  13. Robbo says:

    Brennan’s nasty feline backhanders against Pell simply confirm that the Jesuits are the dungheap of the Catholic Church. I was raised as a Catholic and went to a Jesuit school where I learnt that trusting a Jesuit was a ticket to physical and sexual abuse. It therefore comes as no surprise to me that Brennan wants to play on both sides of the fence when it comes to the appalling mistreatment of Pell. Brennan’s weasel words are just so typically Jesuit.

  14. Shane says:

    So in summing up, Brennan is ”woke” & so isnt responsible for acting outing the general vibe as he does..
    ”Roger says:
    April 11, 2021 at 11:52 am
    I do hope for the good of the Australian church that the intrigue about Vatican financial scandals will abate…
    Just pray, pay and obey your ecclesiastical betters, lay Catholics.”

    Any update on the financial tranaactions where the flow of money was reversed in some contradiction of financial gravity never seen before where the Vatican sent millions, in some reports billions to Oz over that very same relevant period?

  15. Bar Beach Swimmer says:

    I put this on the V-J post the other day.

    Bar Beach Swimmer says:
    April 7, 2021 at 1:12 pm
    Father Frank Brennan’s column wasn’t as explicit on Pell as he could have been given his legal expertise, imho. Yes, he covered the impossibility of the accusation and yes, he covered his and the Cardinal’s history as theological rivals, thereby enabling a reference to his lack of partisanship in the case.

    But those final paragraphs were somewhat bitchy, given what Pell had endured as an innocent captive.

    To paraphrase: “in June he will be 80 and will no longer be able to participate/vote in a papal convocation. His time as a significant presence in the church will be ended”.

    Am I being cynical and mean? It seems to me that in taking that tack Brennan, while upholding the basis of our legal system, which as a lawyer he should do, he manages possibility to retain his entree to all the right invitations, including the ABC

  16. Tintarella di Luna says:

    Brennan’s concluding condescension is the nastiest and most deplorable. He hopes – “for the good of the Australian church” – that “Pell’s influence over episcopal appointments will wane.” It was Tertullian who said that the blood of the martyrs is seed for the Church.

    Perhaps Father Brennan has forgotten that malicious envy is one of the seven deadly sins and his forgetfulness shows.

  17. Figures says: April 11, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    It’s an easy marker of a person isn’t it?
    You either believe everything that happened to Pell was disgusting or you’re an evil commie piece of excrement.
    There’s no other type of person.

    Well said.

  18. Albatross says:

    Brennan: supporter of homosexual marriage and Aboriginal separatism. Opinion discarded.

  19. Rex Mango says:

    Catholic Church has been ambushed and are surrounded on all sides. They have two choices. Follow Pell’s lead and fight through, or retreat and fall back to the Uniting Church position.

  20. David Brewer says:

    I find this bit the worst:

    Australia’s Catholic Church continues to deal with the legacy of Pell, who like many other Australians before 1996 — when he set up the Melbourne Response protocol to deal with abuse allegations — had little sensitivity to the pervasive reality of child sexual abuse in institutions and did little to ensure abuse could not occur within such settings.

    No doubt the legacy would be easier to bear if Pell had worked closely with all his fellow bishops when designing the first protocols.

    As soon as Pell was in charge, in 1996, he started strong action to terminate child sex abuse in his church. That’s his legacy, and it worked. Criticising him for not working closesly with his fellow bishops when designing his strategy only highlights the fact that it was his own.

    Brennan is using a Jesuitical sleight of hand with the word “legacy” to smear Pell with co-responsibility for the problem he actually solved. But it won’t wash. For even if Pell could have done more to stop child sexual abuse in Church institutions before 1996, he was only one bishop, which begs the question what were all the rest of them doing about it then? And why did their efforts, if any, fail, and only Pell’s succeed?

    This sentence is also worth pondering:

    The time has come to attest that Pell worked tirelessly and to the best of his ability from 1996 to put right the dreadful consequences of institutional child sexual abuse.

    That time actually came many years ago. It’s been staring the “get Pell” mob in the face for decades. Their wilful, politically-inspired blindness to the truth about Pell is the real explanation of his near-matrydom.

  21. Patrick Kelly says:

    Let’s face it. No one would ever have heard of F Brennan S.J. were it not for his echoing the ABC line, getting himself the ensuing publicity and becoming the ‘go to’ Catholic for the anti-Catholic mob.

  22. Patrick Kelly says:

    @David Brewer.
    Is not the obvious question being swept under the carpet. Why the witch hunt against the one who did something and not against the many who did nothing? Surely nothing to do with his widely published views on other unrelated issues which cast him on the conservative (evil) side of the fence.

  23. JC says:

    Let’s face it. No one would ever have heard of F Brennan S.J. were it not for his echoing the ABC line, getting himself the ensuing publicity and becoming the ‘go to’ Catholic for the anti-Catholic mob.

    There’s something wrong with this clan. Very wrong.

  24. Squirrel says:

    All roads lead to Surry Hills.

  25. NoFixedAddress says:

    C.L.

    I think ‘the schism’ in ‘Catholicism’ is ‘Jesuitism’.

    You only need look at the pedigree of many in the Victorian Judicial System let alone the background of American Bishops defending the likes of Biden, Pelosi, et al.

    Is the Pope a Catholic? No, he’s a Jesuit.

  26. Mango Man says:

    If this is Catholic debate it would seem rather at odds with the teachings of Christ?

  27. Tim Neilson says:

    If this is Catholic debate it would seem rather at odds with the teachings of Christ?

    Have you ever read the Gospels?

  28. NoFixedAddress says:

    Tim Neilson says:
    April 11, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Have you ever read the Gospels?

    How Dare You!

  29. max says:

    Brennan directs the searchlight back to Pell and the Church.

    Why nothing about the Victorian courts and police and how it is this whole prosecution went forward, beginning with the head of the DPP and Ashton ? Why have there been no consequences ? This is the question now.

  30. Suburban Boy says:

    Pell may not be a martyr literally but he’s the next bloodiest thing.

    Indeed he is: Pell is a confessor – in the technical sense of a Saint of the Church recognised as such due to a life of exemplary Christian virtue.

    Perhaps I am ahead of myself, but if there is any justice in the world that will be the outcome at some point after Pell’s death.

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