Pell’s New Appeal and ‘This Hiatus, This Gap’

Following the rejection in August by the Victorian Appeal Court of Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction for historic sex abuse of two under-age choirboys after a Sunday Solemn Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in December 1996, his legal advisers have now sought leave to appeal to the High Court. There are two proposed grounds for that appeal.

The first is that the majority judgment of Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Appeal Court President Chris Maxwell erred by having so much faith in the credibility of the accuser that they reversed the accepted onus of proof required in a criminal trial. Instead of the onus being on the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt, the majority judgment actually put the onus on the defence to prove the prosecution case was impossible. The application for special leave to appeal says:

Though the majority [Ferguson and Maxwell] said that there was no onus on the applicant [Pell] to prove impossibility, that is precisely what their analysis required him to do … In effect, this approach required the applicant to establish actual innocence, as opposed to merely pointing to doubt, in order to counter the favourable impression of the complainant’s sincerity adopted by the majority. This was a reversal of the onus and standard of proof.

The second ground of appeal is that the judgment of Ferguson and Maxwell itself, when read closely, established there was a reasonable doubt that there was any opportunity for Pell to have committed the offence. This ground focuses on Ferguson and Maxwell’s claim that there was a five- to six-minute hiatus in the proceedings immediately after the Mass when the offence purportedly took place. The application to the High Court says:

The facts as found by them [Ferguson and Maxwell] were that the only time when the room [the priests’ sacristy] was empty for 5–6 minutes was a time when the complainant [the former choirboy] and the other boy were not in the room. Thus according to this aspect of the majority’s own approach, the verdicts were unreasonable.

In what follows here, I will focus only on the second ground of appeal, especially what the available evidence and argument from the original appeal says about the five- to six-minute interlude, or what the prosecution who originated the notion called “this hiatus, this gap”.


Ferguson and Maxwell begin discussion of this issue by addressing the defence’s claim that it was not possible for two choirboys to be assaulted by Pell in the priests’ sacristy after Mass undetected. They observe that the choirboy accuser said the door to the priests’ sacristy was unlocked and the room unoccupied when he and his choirboy friend entered. The possibility or impossibility of this having occurred, the majority judges said, depended on a number of issues about both ritual and procedure, which were explored by several witnesses, specifically:

# when the door to the priests’ sacristy was unlocked;

# when the altar servers returned to the priests’ sacristy to complete their # participation in the Mass by bowing to the crucifix;

# when the clearing away of sacred vessels and other items from the sanctuary commenced, and how long it took; and

# whether the priests’ sacristy was unlocked and unattended at any time in the post-Mass period. [par 292 of majority judgment]

Ferguson and Maxwell said it was common ground between both prosecution and defence that the cathedral’s sacristan, Maxwell Potter, was the person who unlocked the priests’ sacristy after Mass. Potter’s evidence was that, after the procession of choir and clergy had gone through the west door of the cathedral, he would go to the sanctuary, where he would wait until parishioners had finished what he called their “private time” for prayer after the service. Ferguson and Maxwell said this was typically a period of five or six minutes. Potter would then unlock the door to the priests’ sacristy. He would return to the sanctuary to collect the sacred vessels used in the Mass and—with the assistance of the altar servers—would take them back to the priests’ sacristy. [par 293]

However, the judges note that the prosecution had pointed out that Potter’s evidence about waiting to unlock the sacristy only at the end of that “private time” was in conflict with evidence given by cathedral altar servers Jeffrey Connor and Daniel McGlone (who were both adults in 1996).

McGlone’s evidence was that, at the conclusion of Mass, the altar servers would lead the procession back to the rear gate. They would then enter the priests’ sacristy, which was already “unlocked and open”, bow to the crucifix, exit the sacristy and commence their duties as altar servers. McGlone said he had not seen the priests’ sacristy locked at this time. [par 294] McGlone said:

A: You’d go in there and my recollection is the doors, internal doors were open.

Q: To the Priests’ Sacristy?

A: The Priests’ Sacristy. The only one that was ever sort of locked was the Archbishop’s Sacristy.

Connor’s evidence was similar. Having led the procession to the point where the choir could return to the choir room, he said, the altar servers would go directly to the priests’ sacristy and bow to the crucifix. If Potter was himself acting as an altar server, he would unlock the sacristy door as they were coming through. If not, the servers would arrive and the door would be unlocked and open. Connor said Potter would usually be there waiting for them but he could not say that he was there every time. [par 295]

Ferguson and Maxwell say the effect of the altar servers’ evidence was that the unlocking of the sacristy door, and their bowing to the crucifix, occurred soon after the procession finished and that, by the time they returned to the sanctuary to assist Potter, the door was already unlocked. The judges continue:

On that view, it was quite possible for the Sacristy to have been unlocked and unattended at around the time A [the accuser] said he and B [his friend] broke away from the procession. The clearing of the sanctuary had, of course, to await the end of the private prayer for parishioners. The Crown case as presented to the jury was that “there is this hiatus, this gap” during which the first incident had occurred. [par 296]

Ferguson and Maxwell also quote passages of evidence from Peter Finnigan, choir marshal in 1996, and Geoffrey Cox, choirmaster and organist in 1996, about how busy the sacristy became once the altar servers arrived. Finnigan said:

Immediately after Mass there were people everywhere … coming in and going out of the priests’ sacristy … There were people in that area, whether they were in the Sacristy or not there were people in the corridor … The florist would have also been in the servers’ sacristy as well. [par 298]

Cox recalled seeing altar servers:

who were very busy removing materials from the sanctuary, taking them back out to the Sacristy. In fact, the whole area of the sanctuary into the sacristies was a hive of activity and there were people doing jobs. [par 299]

On the basis of the above evidence, Ferguson and Maxwell drew the following conclusion:

In our view, taking the evidence as a whole, it was open to the jury to find that the assaults took place in the 5–6 minutes of private prayer time and that this was before the “hive of activity” described by the other witnesses began. The jury were not bound to have a reasonable doubt. [par 300]

However, Ferguson and Maxwell make their reasoning difficult to follow because, while they relate the five to six minutes of “private prayer” time to Potter’s activities—it began immediately after Potter had seen “the procession of choir and clergy had gone through the west door of the cathedral”—they don’t say what the other players in this scenario, especially the altar servers, were doing at the same time. For the Ferguson–Maxwell version of events to be true, these crucial participants in the mass that fateful Sunday must have played a role that allowed Pell’s abuse of the boys to have occurred within that five- to six-minute hiatus, when no one else was in the priests’ sacristy.


I have drawn up a timeline of all the events that the evidence endorsed by Ferguson and Maxwell permits (see pages 30 and 31). All the principal characters they discuss on this specific topic are listed in it and the activities they undertook in each minute of a fifteen-minute period after the end of the mass are recorded.

The timeline has its starting point at 12:02 p.m. on the Sunday concerned. According to Finnigan [par 805], Mass usually finished a minute or two after 12 noon. The minute-by-minute list of events comes directly from evidence endorsed by Ferguson and Maxwell, and in any case is not affected by the exact starting time but rather the time elapsed after Mass finished, whenever that was.

The procession after Mass was headed by several adult altar servers, followed by the choir in the order of sopranos first, then altos, tenors, baritones and basses—sixty choristers in all—then more altar servers, followed by priests, cathedral officials and, finally, Archbishop Pell. [pars 325, 364]

The six minutes taken by the exit procession to move down the centre aisle of the nave of the cathedral, to go through the west door, and to take an external path back to the rear gate of the cathedral, and go from there to the priests’ sacristy, has been recently paced out and timed at the cathedral itself by a source I trust.

The six minutes required for the exit procession is also the same that cathedral officials today say it takes the entrance procession for a Solemn Mass to move from the priests’ sacristy, to the cathedral’s rear gate, and then via external procession to the west door, and then up the centre aisle to the positions allocated to participants inside the cathedral to celebrate the Mass.

The timeline published here shows that the hypothesis of the Appeal Court majority, that there was a hiatus period during which Potter waited for private prayers to end in the cathedral, during which time the priests’ sacristy was occupied solely by Pell and the two choirboys, is wrong.

The Ferguson–Maxwell scenario made two mistakes. It neglected to factor into its own assumptions the six minutes needed for the procession, including the altar servers, to move from inside the cathedral to its outside rear gate, and then into the priests’ sacristy; and it put aside what the altar servers told them they did once the procession was over.

The timeline shows that the altar servers, especially those who headed the procession, would have got to the priests’ sacristy before the two boys. They took a more direct route to that room than the choirboy, who said he and his friend backtracked externally from the toilet corridor to the south transept door before re-entering the cathedral and following the internal route to the priests’ sacristy, a route Ferguson and Maxwell accepted as true [par 203]. My informant about the cathedral says that, starting from the rear gate, it would take the altar servers sixteen seconds (twenty-two paces) to go along the toilet corridor to the priests’ sacristy. However, using the choirboys’ alternative route via the south transept doors, it would have taken them one minute sixteen seconds (115 paces) to go from the rear gate to the sacristy. The altar servers went there directly and, finding the door unlocked, as the two judges assure us it was, would have gone in exactly one minute before the boys arrived.

So there was no time available in that room after the Mass for the six minutes of sexual abuse to take place. As the defence rightly argued, the scenario described by Pell’s accuser is not only the subject of reasonable doubt, it is extremely improbable it ever happened.

Keith Windschuttle is Editor of Quadrant.

36 thoughts on “Pell’s New Appeal and ‘This Hiatus, This Gap’

  • Peter Smith says:

    I have had dealings with lawyers. Some are good but many are overrated. Keith Windschuttle has produced a timeline here which, in keeping with everything he writes, is transparent. There is no obfuscating guile. If he is wrong then his critics have every opportunity to show it, if they can. Maybe their (two) honours on the Victorian appeal court should have a look and either show that Keith is indeed mistaken or reconvene and reverse their verdict. A man is in jail for goodness sake. But my other point is to ask why Pell’s lawyers were not bright enough to construct the same timeline. Which goes back to my initial comment. Not all lawyers are very bright or very thorough.

  • Geoffrey Luck says:

    I considered at the time of the trial that the defence had trapped itself with its emphasis on proving the impossibility/improbability of Pell’s offending, instead of stressing the reasonable doubts. In a sense they set themselves up for the decision of the majority in the appeal.

  • Mike O'Ceirin says:

    The evidence of one with no corroboration. We could all be jail on that.

  • pgang says:

    Peter they probably did. I think you’re still missing the point of this fiasco: it was a pre-determined outcome. Evidence is not relevant – the appeal judges more or less admitted to that.

  • Searcher says:

    Keith Windschuttle’s timeline is masterly. One feels that it was guided by the spirits of William of Ockham, Alfred North Whitehead, Albert Einstein, and Jaakko Hintikka. (Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character.) This is a tall order to demand of lawyers.

    We are loaded with two travesties now. The Pell case makes the courts look bad. The Ridd case shows that James Cook University (JCU) has a bad administration. One may ask ‘have the other universities tried to protect their reputations by persuading the JCU administration not to appeal, but instead to pay up and drain the swamp’.

  • whitelaughter says:

    Mike O’Ceirin – yes. Given the number of scoundrels in the country, we should all be very afraid. Frankly, hiring scumbags to accuse the lawyers and jurors involved in this fubar seems the simplest way out of the mess. Illegal? Easy to get around that, just get diplomatic staff to handle everything from behind the safety of diplomatic immunity. After all, we’ll want everything

  • whitelaughter says:

    done in a fashion that allows complete transparency afterwards.

  • norsaint says:

    Pell’s biggest mistake was believing in the integrity of the Australian Courts. He should have stayed in Rome and flipped them the bird. Great work Keith. The whole point of the law is to make business for itself and on these grounds, all is well. How the gimlet-eyed feminist in charge of the Committal hearing could ever justify her decision would be interesting. On the aforementioned grounds only.

  • John Snowden says:

    What about the second supposed offence the following year? I don’t know the details but I’ve heard it’s even more implausible.

  • rossstanbrook says:

    Plaudits to your dedication Keith, but I find the fact you needed to write this depressing. So many reasons why Pell should never had gone to court, and so many reasons why so many others will have similar fates. As I approach 60, I feel like I’ve been watching the eventide of Western justice.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    And given that their success in the Pell case has confirmed (for them) that the methodology works, we are now seeing the ABC and its running dogs putting Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG through the same disgraceful process. If he is ever charged, it won’t matter whether he actually committed any offence. His reputation has now been tarnished probably beyond redemption.
    Chris Masters has considerable form in character assassination. Much as I am far from a fan of Alan Jones, I was disgusted by the Masters’ hatchet job on him. I can only hope that Roberts-Smith is successful in suing him and his collaborators in the ABC.

  • talldad says:

    rosstanbrook, if you date yourself to 60, then you will have seen the twilight at the time of the Lindy & Michael Chamberlain case. This is the last rays of sunshine disappearing into the gloom of night.

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    Reading The Australian it was possible to find the grounds for appeal to the High Court.
    However the prosecution’s response was missing.
    Is it possible to publish the Prosecution’s response and indicate whether the High Court has agreed to consider the appeal?

  • Salome says:

    The Age reported gleefully on the Prosecution’s submission in response. The Australian included an article on the Defence’s submissions in reply, and suddenly it all fell into place–the Prosecution has been successful (thus far) in this case, and continues to run it, on material that could only be fairly regarded as (to put it politely) semibottomed. The submissions in reply argue that the Prosecution’s submissions simply don’t deal with the issues, as, indeed, the majority didn’t either. I despair.

  • ianl says:


    >” I can only hope that Roberts-Smith is successful in suing him [Chris Masters] and his collaborators in the ABC.”

    That only works if Masters is held personally liable for any damages. Peter Ridd vs JCU showcases this perfectly.

  • deric davidson says:

    Brilliant analysis by KW.
    But even if there was a ‘hiatus’ of 5-6 minutes which allowed for the possible unwitnessed assault of two boys to occur by a fully vested cleric, Pell would surely have to claim then to be a world class sexual athlete of incredible dexterity!! 5-6 minutes, 2 boys wow!!
    The whole thing is a pathetic joke but not so amusing for a man rotting in prison for something he obviously did not do.

  • padraic says:

    I was skimming through a recent edition of “The Economist” and came across an article about the “holy mess” of the Vatican’s finances and saw this paragraph:
    “In 2014 Pope Francis created a Secretariat for the Economy to oversee all the financial activities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State. Its first boss, Cardinal George Pell, who is appealing a conviction for child abuse in Australia, said that after he took over he discovered ‘hundreds of millions of euros’ that did not appear on the balance sheet. Some in the Vatican, where conspiracy theories flourish, believe he would not be in jail had he not tried to seize control of those funds.” – end of quote. Of course, it’s hard to believe such a theory given the impeccable behaviour in relation to the lack of conspiracies exhibited in recent times by the law and order sector in Victoria. It will be interesting to see what the High Court makes of all this.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “Pell would surely have to claim then to be a world class sexual athlete of incredible dexterity!! 5-6 minutes, 2 boys wow!!”
    It take it that deric davidson is speaking hypothetically there and not from experience. How much time do you think would be needed, deric?
    Keith Windschuttle (KW) has shown fairly convincingly here that there is room for doubt, and has used much the same approach as the one he took into the fray on the issue of Aboriginal massacres; which he claimed in the main did not occur. But the deepest historical record we have is not archaeology; it is palaeontology, and on that there is no greater authority than Hutton, whose dictum was: “the present is the key to the past.”
    Whether it is KW’s account or that of the present surviving witness we incline to accept, the present reality is a culture of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, and clerical policy of cover-up; particularly in Ballarat, with all the tragic consequences that inevitably go with it.
    We also believe what we want to believe. A Christian wants to believe the doctrine as he or she understands it. Likewise a Catholic the Catholic version. The congregation is a community, and believing is just about everything. I do not find it surprising that people who identify as ‘conservatives’, Catholic or otherwise, are circling the wagons and seeking reasons why the account they prefer must be true. Believing is essential to belonging.
    But someone has to be lying here, and consciously doing so. Either it is the surviving chorister, who understandably is not available for media interviews and who would presumably be in agreement with the one who took his own life, or it is Cardinal Pell. I saw the Cardinal interviewed briefly on TV, and he expressed repugnance at the offence and the suggestion that he could do such a thing. (NB: that still leaves it open for him as a Christian to be repelled by the sin but forgiving of the sinner; even if the sinner happens to be himself. Particularly so in that case.)
    The problem here as I see it is credibility: there has to be a liar. The surviving chorister and Pell cannot both be right. The Supreme Court of Victoria chose to believe the former: two to one. Commentators have sought the judges’ individual religious affiliations, and found nothing to arouse suspicion there. Pell supporters have had to seek reasons why those claiming to have been abused by Pell himself have to be wrong, and I think that KW has here provided the best case for that position.
    But as the founder of Christianity said (most likely without intending a double entendre) “seek and ye shall find”.

  • deric davidson says:

    Ian you’re not accusing me something are you?

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    deric, Certainly not. I don’t speak in riddles. I said “It take it that deric davidson is speaking hypothetically there and not from experience.” Full bloody stop.

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    ‘We also believe what we want to believe.’ Ian Mc

    Only if we live a fantasy.
    Quo Vadis, George Pell or ‘The Kid’.
    The prosecution stated the alleged victim ‘was not a fantasist’
    For me that is a ‘faith based’ statement.
    How are we to know that?
    Maybe we will learn more of The Kidd’s personality after the case is completed, as happened with Risdale’s nephew.
    To my mind, there is one thing sure, Pell is not a fantasist.
    I had the opportunity of performing an exit interview on one who left Pell’s novitiate after a period of discernment.
    The penultimate interview between himself and George Pell, went along the lines of….
    Now I don’t want to waste my time and I am sure you don’t want to waste your time.
    Do you need time to think things over?
    Yes another 6 months.
    That’s fine, but if you can’t make up your mind by then, its best you go.
    More power to Pell, being a priest is a tough game.
    He is clear in intention.
    Feet firmly on the ground.
    Not all that diplomatic,probably does not flatter or suffer fools gladly.
    Competent to know when he is lying.
    Unable to accept manifest injustice.
    Prepared to say so.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “More power to Pell, being a priest is a tough game.
    He is clear in intention.
    Feet firmly on the ground.
    Not all that diplomatic, probably does not flatter or suffer fools gladly.
    Competent to know when he is lying.
    Unable to accept manifest injustice.
    Prepared to say so.”
    “Competent to know when he is lying.” Who? Pell himself knows when Pell is lying? Surely you don’t mean that.
    But in other words, an authority figure. That still does not render impossible or otherwise the charges levelled against him. Quite the reverse in fact. Such people are in my experience used to getting their own way, and expect such as their entitlement.
    Pell some time back made the rather foolhardy move (IMHO) of taking on Prof Richard Dawkins in an open public debate. Pell was soon floundering. He should have given the task to a Catholic who was more up with science. But then again, it fits.
    “The prosecution stated the alleged victim ‘was not a fantasist’
    For me that is a ‘faith based’ statement.
    How are we to know that?”
    You clearly incline to the view that the victim is a fantasist. Well, does the alleged victim claim he can walk on water or some such? That can be empirically tested, and a competent psychologist could probably come up with some sort of measure of any fantasising. But he can believe there are fairies at the bottom of the garden and still be right about a sexual assault, if such happened.
    But then again, the whole edifice of Judeo-Christianity is based on fantasy. Any Catholic kid is encouraged to believe in fantasies by the truckload. Miracles at Lourdes and Fatima, etc etc etc. Read Genesis 3, and of the key role played by that talking snake, without whose persuasive powers there would not have been Original Sin, and therefore no need for redemption and all the rest of it.. No popes, cardinals, priests or choirboys for that matter.
    If the alleged victim is a true Catholic Christian, he will have been fed fantasy after fantasy in his tender and formative years. But most Catholics of my experience incline to laugh all that stuff off. It disinclines them to any and all fantasy.
    However, those who take it more seriously I would say have a definite vulnerability, which a skilled and experienced predator can spot and then take advantage of. That if anything, could make the prosecution case stronger.

  • pbw says:

    Mr MacDougall, you have managed to completely miss the point; possibly wilfully, as you are as such pains to appear reasonable.

    I agree, someone is lying, and I agree that the second jury and the majority of the appeal Bench decided that the complainant was giving a truthful account. But it was not because they decided Pell was lying; Pell did not testify. The case was about the “impossibility”, or as Justice Weinberg might put it, the cascading–and therefore multiplying–improbabilites of the purported assault, any one of which would sink the prosecution case.

    There was never any need to decide between the evidence of the complainant and the testimony of Pell. The prosecution had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the cascade of improbabilities actually occurred.

    What Keith WIndschuttle has shown, once again, on the sequence of events accepted by the majority, is that the assault was, in fact, impossible.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    pbw (or whatever your real name is):
    “Mr MacDougall, you have managed to completely miss the point; possibly wilfully, as you are as such pains to appear reasonable. “
    (!) What else would you have me do? Appear unreasonable? I concede; that would probably make the contrarian apologist’s task easier.
    “I agree, someone is lying, and I agree that the second jury and the majority of the appeal Bench decided that the complainant was giving a truthful account.
    “But it was not because they decided Pell was lying; Pell did not testify.”
    A little bit of card-sharpery there. He did not testify in court. But apart from presumption of innocence and bearing such false witness being a serious (mortal?) sin by Pell’s religion, as I recall he has said in public and on TV that he did no such thing. And for a serious charge such as this, I assume the defendant does not have to enter a plea; it being up to the prosecution to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt. [NB I am not a lawyer.] Which apparently happened, but in closed court with evidence we are not privy to.
    But let’s face it. Your whole pro-Pell case here rests on the survivor lying both about his own experience and that of his deceased fellow altar-server.
    “The case was about the ‘impossibility’, or as Justice Weinberg might put it, the cascading–and therefore multiplying–improbabilites of the purported assault, any one of which would sink the prosecution case.
    “There was never any need to decide between the evidence of the complainant and the testimony of Pell. The prosecution had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the cascade of improbabilities actually occurred.
    “What Keith WIndschuttle has shown, once again, on the sequence of events accepted by the majority, is that the assault was, in fact, impossible.”
    I put it to you that KW has done no such thing. He has given us a ‘timeline’ broken up into arbitrarily chosen one minute intervals, with no error estimates on each interval. I put it to you that the ‘cascade’ is not of ‘improbabilities’ but of accumulating error margins as each step of KW’s arbitrary sequence of one-minute intervals progressed.
    There was no CCTV, nor observers with stopwatches timing each step of the sequence as proposed by KW. Nor is there from KW’s ‘trusted source’ an inside limit and an outside limit of each of these one-minute intervals in KW’s timeline.
    Finally, what would be the minimum intervals of time needed for the acts Pell has been found guilty of, from which error can be calculated? (Forget the maxima.)
    I would guess that a skilled and experienced practitioner could carry out each assault inside one minute. But I must confess that I have no experience on which to base a sound judgement there. Perhaps George Pell’s old housemate Gerald Ridsdale or some of his now banged-up clerical colleagues from Ballarat could be called in to give an expert opinion. But then again, I imagine that the minimum time needed varies from pervert to pervert.

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    Ian Mc
    Some years ago I attended a debate adjudicated by Bill Peach.

    It concerned the conduct of the Vietnam War.
    At the end he summed up by saying that the debate had been won by the questioners in the audience, not by the participants.
    You are watching here an unfolding discussion about what went on that fateful day when George Pell
    Is alleged to have left a procession to find two boys drinking wine in a priests sacristy and then foully raped them.
    We are the questioners in the audience.
    Now he either did or did not do the crime he is charged with.
    As you evoke the mantra of science, so presumably are awed by scientific method, I commend to you the concept, as a scientist, of the ‘Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses’.

    I note that you hold Professor Dawkins in high regard.
    I owe him a great debt as it is his debating prowess that has confirmed my own path from a dalliance with Atheism to Catholic beliefs.
    It all started at uni when I was doing Biology one, the professor of evolutionary biology, was a theist but never darkened the door of a church.
    He self actualised into theism by intellectual effort.

    Scientist and Theologian, Born 1918, Melbourne Vic, Died 2009
    Charles Birch is one of the world’s leading geneticists. His early investigations into the insect world led to his interest in population ecology. He went on to explore the inter-reaction of humanity with the environment, studying genetics at Chicago University then Oxford. As Challis Professor of Biology at Sydney University, he helped lay the foundations for the new science of ecology. His search for a philosophy that could embrace both science and God culminated in what he calls “an ecological model of God”.
    Now when Dawkins debated Pell he asked Pell a basic question in anthropology.
    ‘Who are we descended from’
    Pell, on an account I read, answered Neanderthal Man.
    Now this answer from a strict scientific point of view is wrong.
    However Pell does not claim to be a scientist,just widely read.
    We indeed do have a little Neanderthal in us, perhaps 1 to 2 %
    Altogether there could be still existing up to 50% of the Neanderthal genes in the aggregated human species.
    What concerned me was the approach Professor Dawkins takes.
    With expert knowledge, as a professional, his job is to educate not hand our gotcha questions.
    From a lay point of view we actually are descended from neanderthals, as some were our very great grand parents, but only a few.
    Pell appeared at The Sydney Opera House in “the Festival of Dangerous Ideas’ and acquitted himself well.
    You may note a large number of atheist speakers.
    Prof.Charles Birch made the observation that it was easy to win a debate about the existence of God.
    All one had to do was ask the hard questions first.
    So lets look at some scientific ones.
    Originally there was nothing, then a small object the size of a pea with dimples on it, which formed the galaxies, and very hot, ie vibrating, appeared on its own expanded and formed the universe as we see it.
    Everything we see came from nothing.
    Alternatively the universe has always existed and so time has always existed so what we see is this.
    Prove it scientifically.
    Although Pell does not believe in snakes talking,he is not enamored with ‘Atheism of the Gaps’ either.
    The Catholic Church is not a fundamentalist religion, it does not accept ‘Sola Scripta’ either.
    Pell, as a member, would not take the Bible as a literal textbook,so why think a choirboy of recent education would?
    It has been suggested in this debate on this site that the defense made an error by trying to prove that Pell could not have done the act, rather than forcing the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he did the alleged acts.
    However this approach by the defense is quite logical.
    Its the classic method of writing or presenting a history with key facts in it and letting the committee or whoever, figure it out and decide they themselves reached the conclusion, which in itself was pretty self evident anyway.
    What is illogical is that the Majority Opinion on appeal changed the onus of proof.
    The debate you see here delves further by looking at new lines of inquiry not considered by the police or ruled out by the prosecution or defense.
    In a better world I would like to believe neither is lying, so look for other reasons for their conflict.
    As Aquinas points out, two truths cannot contradict, however there may be some point in this where there may be no actual conflict in reality.
    Particularly if someone is fantasizing.
    The circles I am acquainted with throw up all sorts of fantasies as I have blogged before.
    You don’t need to be an Ex Catholic to fantasize.
    Some on the spectrum think we will be extinct in 12 years.
    People believe in all sorts of things.
    However, whatever one’s background, religious or not,its better not to be fooled.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Ian Mac, the more you obfuscate, the less convincing your statements are. Your evident religious bigotry, aggravated by your complete ignorance of the Roman Catholic Church would bring joy to the hearts of the anti-Pell collective in the leftist media.

    It’s not up to me, Keith Windschuttle or any of the many others discussing this case to prove Pell “innocent”. He remained innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt of specific charges laid against him. He was not, and is not, obliged to say anything in his own defence, and no inference of guilt can be made should he choose to remain silent.
    His sharing of a house with Ridsdale is utterly irrelevant to his guilt of the alleged offences for which he was tried. Whether he knew or did not know of Ridsdale’s offences or of anyone else’s alleged offences is utterly irrelevant to his guilt of the alleged offences for which he was tried. The opinion of some embittered woman from Ballarat as reported in the notoriously biassed leftist Guardian is utterly irrelevant to his guilt of the alleged offences for which he was tried.
    The fact remains that there are cogent legal arguments and many logical arguments by informed lay-persons’ that cast serious doubt on the second trial jury’s decision, and that of the majority of the court of appeal. Nobody but the most rabid of the enemies of Cardinal Pell and the RC Church seems to believe that this entire case, from the beginning to the end, has been anything short of a carefully planned and meticulously executed lynching.
    It’s one of the most shameful miscarriages of justice in Australian legal history.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “The opinion of some embittered woman from Ballarat …. notoriously biassed leftist Guardian … utterly irrelevant to his guilt of the alleged offences…. ”
    OK, OK. Calm down. Have a cup of tea. I get where you are coming from.
    “Nobody but the most rabid of the enemies of Cardinal Pell and the RC Church seems to believe that this entire case, from the beginning to the end, has been anything short of a carefully planned and meticulously executed lynching.
    On the contrary. Surely “the most rabid enemies of Cardinal Pell” believe that justice might have been done.
    “It’s one of the most shameful miscarriages of justice in Australian legal history..”
    So the court over which you preside has not only found Pell not guilty as charged, and that he could not possibly be otherwise, and that the surviving witness against him could only have been lying, but is also calling for an overhaul of the entire Victorian judicial system on the strength of it.
    No possibility other than that. And the Victorian Supreme Court did not take into account the company Pell kept, or his institution’s culture of turning a blind eye to the pederasts in its own ranks; which was only proper and in accordance with the law; though juries in the pubs out there might reach a somewhat different conclusion.
    Meanwhile, all that is left to doubters and sceptics like me is to put down our copies of the biassed leftist Guardian, gather up our lynching gear, and go out on the prowl for yet another fresh innocent clerical victim.
    But all the same, that old clerical colleague of Pell’s who these days goes by the name of Pope Francis is wasting no time in bringing the issue of clerical celibacy up for review. (See link below.)The organisation he presides over cannot afford too many more dramas like this, and even you might just agree.
    Sex crimes are by their very nature not carried out before any witnesses, and always involve significant differences in physical strength between victim and perpetrator, as in a woman against a (stronger) man or a child against a (stronger) adult. Add to that the persuasion factors: the man persuading himself that the woman really asked for it, wanted it, etc etc and that any protests on her part are phony or insincere; the adult persuading himself that it is God’will, or that God does not give a damn, or that it can all be absolved come next session in the confessional, and we are set up to scar someone for life. The young and naïve victim, having been schooled in obedience to clerical authority and all the Catholic mumbo-jumbo that underwrites that, can be an easy mark for a sexual predator.
    I happen to know a man who claims to have been abused in just this way as a kid, and by members of a (non-Catholic) Christian organisation. According to his own testimony, it is the powerlessness he felt that he resents most. He has never married, and puts a lot of time and energy into his chosen sport. He has become very, very good at it; very determined; very focused.


  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Ian, you win. Bye.

  • DUBBY says:

    I don’t know whether the Cardinal is guilty or innocent although I couldn’t imagine him doing that sort of thing. Neither do I believe it was proven beyond reasonable doubt, although I wasn’t at the trial. Nevertheless he is now in jail somewhere. I would like to think that some of the other prisoners there with him would take the opportunity to spend some precious time with this wise and holy man of God. What a privilege!

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    DT: All the best…

  • Les Kovari says:

    Everybody seems to ignore the fact that the Sacristy is a sacred place, I challenge anyone to believe that a man of Pell’s standing would even dream of desecrating it with a lewd act such as that he is being accused of doing.
    Finally, to be crude but factual, can anyone, honestly, imagine that Pell would have been capable of such sexual arousal that would have been needed for him to achieve satisfaction in the five or six minutes that was available to start, perform and finish the act. I have put it as delicately as possible, hope you all agree.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Les Kovari. Yes I agree. The most absurd feature of this guilty verdict is the apparent belief that the sex acts attributed to Pell could have been performed in six minutes, even with co-operation from the victims. This is pure fantasy. It is the most obvious deficiency in the complainant’s story. The complainant has overplayed his hand, by trying to make the scene he depicts as lurid and damning as possible.

  • Les Kovari says:

    The activities centered around the Sacristy are not at all conducive to anything of a sexual nature so, why do the accusers think that their claims are even close to being realistic. And another thing, how can two learned judges accept the accusations made by some driftwood against the denial by a highly respected, gentle, holy man of Pell’s stature. Australia is entering a very dark age.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “… the accusations made by some driftwood against the denial by a highly respected…. ”
    Your prejudice is showing.
    1. The ‘driftwood’s’ evidence was given in closed court. You are not privy to it. (Neither am I.) Two of the three judges accepted it as beyond reasonable doubt. One did not.
    2. Until found guilty of ‘pedophilia’ (read non-consensual sex involving minors) all the clerics including those from around Ballarat now banged up for various stretches were “highly respected, gentle, holy men.”
    3. If otherwise, any defence case could rest on character witnesses testifying to the respectability, gentleness and holiness of any accused.
    But the law does not work that way.

  • Les Kovari says:

    Ian McDougall – my prejudice I showing because I wear it on my sleeve and I am not ashamed of it. I am prejudiced against injustice, so blatant that it hurts, in a country I judged to be the most fair and just in the world, I was wrong. And that is the most hurtful of it all. I am not a Catholic, I am Lutheran but not practicing. I was educated in a Lutheran Grammar school which was closed down by the communist regime after I matriculated. The source of my education became the source of much persecution and injustice. I had never experienced paedophilia by clerics or others in my country so, I might be forgiven for being prejudiced against Pell’s accusers. I am also too old to care what anyone thinks of me.

  • Les Kovari says:

    Ian MacDougall – As I said earlier, Australia is entering a very dark age. I am glad that I won’t be here to experience it all, however, my son and new granddaughter most certainly will, that makes me very sad.

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