Discussing the radical, inexorable and a times nasty secularisation of society, the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago once famously lamented:
I expect to die in bed, my successor for will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.
What a year the anti-Church progressives, radical secularists, assorted anti-Catholic bigots and the keep-religion-private brigade have had, notwithstanding their significant setback yesterday in the High Court. Until this new turn of events, it had been a golden year, and this explains to some extent why these groups have adopted a take-no-prisoners approach to safeguarding the gains they have made. They have managed to get the Church right where they want it, and they do not wish to let go of the advantage.
What are these gains?
Let us begin with the inexorable march of anti-life legislation across several jurisdictions in Australasia (on both sides of the Ditch). The much lamented NSW legislation, only very mildly amended in the end, sought to emulate equally abhorrent new laws in the once fine state of Victoria and in the always politically eccentric Queensland. The entire East Coast of Australia is now an entirely safe space for those who have demanded, without the need, and obtained, the right to kill the unborn, unencumbered, right up until the moment of birth. Our friends across the Tasman have revealed, alas, an almost overwhelming majority of MPs willing to embrace the culture of death. (It is refreshing to learn that the recent NZ Nationals recruit and likely future leader, CEO of Air New Zealand Christopher Luxon, appears to be pro-life, almost an anachronism on either side of the aisle in the Land of the Long White Teeth).
Then there is what might be termed the homosexualisation of the airwaves, continuing apace and flipping the bird to those religious and non-religious among us who respect homosexual rights and people but who perhaps do not need to be reminded of their presence among us every other hour. We see this everywhere, in commercials and lifestyle TV property programs, for example. Whether woke corporations and advertising types are simply getting with the times or are making a more concerted effort at subliminal evangelisation is open to debate. We already get that there are “all kinds of families” and that “love is love”. You won, we lost. But please stay out of our faces.
In a similar vein we have the sidelining, or at any rate the downsizing of Aussie tennis legend Margaret Court by the lesbotariat’s fellow travellers in Tennis Australia. This case of get-the-homophobic-preacher is beyond shameful, and bespeaks a sinister turn for the already woke-and-corporatised national sporting bodies whose bloated bureaucracies are so determined to embrace the new homosexualist game. This game was captured neatly in a recent, semi-literate twitter contribution from Martina Navratilova, who apparently alleges (falsely) that Margaret Court thinks she (Navratilova) is a bad person because she is a lesbian, and that Court should simply not be allowed to get away with saying what she (Navratilova) deems to be mean things about homosexuals. The religiously inclined are now not to be allowed to think, let alone say publicly, that homosexual practice is for Christians sinful. End. Of. Story.
Next there was the utter demolition by a range of leftist forces of Tony Abbott as a political player and the attempt to remove him totally from the public square. This was a big win for the anti-Church brigade, once and for all getting rid of Captain Catholic and, even worse, prominent friend-of-Pell. Some time back I opined, in the context of an interview on the BBC with Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson’s Leader of the House, that a practising, conservative Catholic becoming a major political player in the West is now nigh on impossible. This was certainly the line taken by the interviewer, Jo Coburn, and she was probably right. Chalking up Abbott’s scalp was a major victory for the David Marr aligned Left, one to be savoured. A victory for the ages, no less.
Then there is the abolition of the seal of the Catholic Confessional that is continuing apace, in a rolling wave of post-Royal Commission secular state euphoria, across Australian jurisdictions. There is nothing that could be considered more diabolical among the many efforts of the secular progressive state to mess with the core business of the Church, nothing better designed to drive a stake into the heart of Australian Catholicism. The intent of this poorly thought through and most likely totally ineffective legislation, designed to make priests dob in child abusing penitents and so force these priests to break what they believe to be a sacred seal ordained by God, may or may not be noble and/or popular. Of all the things that governments, looking around for post-Royal Commission feel-good actions that might justify the half billion dollar spend, this would have to be the lamest. But it does have the sublime benefit, for a certain kind of Church-hating politician, of absolutely sticking it to the evil, paedo-infested Catholic patriarchy they are convinced exists. That prominent Liberal politicians — aspiring leaders no less, such as Christian Porter — should have embraced this sacrilege is beyond contemptible. Definitely a major victory in 2019 for the progressive secularists intent on making hay while the post-RC sun shines.
And what about the continued non-employment of Israel Folau and the (to date) successful ring fencing of any avenues of future employment for him? The Folau case might have faded from the news for the moment, but its significance remains for those who value freedom of belief and the right to express traditional Christian views, however unwoke, without losing your job and prospects.
Second-to-last we have the wimpish performance of the Morrison Government, allegedly beholden to the silent Australians who in May denied Bill Shorten residency in The Lodge, and indeed led by a proud Christian, in relation to religious freedom in the post same sex marriage environment. The proposed religious freedom legislation has the kissing-your-sister feel, and the disappointment among Christian groups in particular has been palpable. If the Christian lobby is upset, that has to be good for its opponents and for the broad effort to ensure the Christian tide has well and truly gone out.
And finally, the biggest daddy of them all, we have the hyper-reviled George Pell, who still languishes in solitary confinement, pending possible redemption by a High Court that is mercifully open to hearing his case on appeal. This final legal bid for freedom and justification may or may not bring a fair outcome. Of course, a fair outcome is what Pell’s many faithful supporters and friends here and overseas are resting their hopes on, as are those for whom a just nation with a fair justice system still has some meaning as well as those who have been deeply alarmed at the reversal of the onus of proof in Pell type cases, now seemingly embedded in the Victorian “justice” system.
For the supporters of Cardinal Pell, there have been two ongoing tasks. First, to get an innocent man out of jail. And second, to continue the painstaking, laborious work of rescuing what is left of his trashed reputation across the nation and the world.
Both tasks assume greater importance absent a more vigorous and steel-spined defence of the Cardinal by the Catholic Church hierarchy in Australia, or indeed by our non-Catholic, Christian brothers. This absence might be seen as understandable, given that the Church has indeed been snookered by its enemies over child abuse and its attempts at moral preaching in a pagan, anti-Christian age. Rendering the Church mute has itself been a major victory for the progressive secularists. On this view, the absence of an above-the-radar, all-out defence of Cardinal Pell’s innocence by the Church itself (with notable exceptions like Archbishop Peter Comensoli, also a star in the fight over the confessional seal issue) might be seen as a smart move, and a Church-led defence of the man may well have been counter-productive. “They would say that”, you can almost hear the Church’s enemies chirruping.
Whatever the motives of the Church hierarchy’s virtual silence over Pell, it is the case that his defence in the public square has been left in the hands of a few Catholic and non-Catholic journalists and legal (and other) scholars of investigative bent. These warriors are not content to let the ABC-led view become the accepted popular wisdom – that Pell received a fair trial, that a properly sworn jury found him guilty, and so “he done it”. In addition, Pell’s defence has been left to the many generous donors who have paid his legal costs, and a number of persistently prayerful and sober social media sites which have served both to share news of legal and other developments with supporters and to help maintain their spirits.
Against these forces, we have a rock solid team defending what its members claim to have been a fair trial, the #metoo philosophy of the Victorian legal process as it applied to the Pell case, the normally bungling but in this case razor sharp Victorian Police, the “survivors”, indeed all the “victims” of sexual abuse, and above all the ignoble investigative sleuths of the ABC (and other equally spirited journalists) who so successfully and strategically snuffed out Pell’s reputation before the trial had commenced and who provided a kindly character reference, indeed a glowing encomium, for the Pell complainant (sorry, victim). Those enjoying the current privilege of being able to refer to Pell as a “convicted paedophile” and for whom their favoured adjective is “disgraced”, must, at all costs, continue simply to not allow this man to be thought of by anyone as innocent, or, just as awful to contemplate, see him released after the case against him has finally been found in law to have been groundless.
A legal way out of the nightmare for Pell would be the biggest setback of all for the Church’s enemies. Equally, though, any attempt coherently to paint a counter-narrative questioning strategically important aspects of the Get Pell story – the earlier (2016) vicious condemnation of Pell, in particular the repeated public airing of the possibility that Pell was in fact a serial offender over many decades that was so critical in embedding a diabolical picture of Pell in the public’s consciousness, and the abject apologia for the “compelling” and “honest” complainant prosecuted via the mainstream media, especially the ABC, on social media and in Louise Milligan’s 2016 book – must at all costs be either denied oxygen or shut down through abuse of those suggesting an alternate narrative. The suggestion that Pell might be innocent and/or that he was “stitched up” cannot be allowed to gain traction in the mind of the public.
Hence adolescent leftists in short pants from the once respected former Fairfax stable are doing their bit to continue the fight against the redemption of Pell’s reputation, with attacks on this writer personally and on this journal for, variously, questioning the legal merits of the judgments in Victoria against the Cardinal, investigating the possible biases of key players in the Victorian justice system, and, more important still, exposing the ways in which the Victorian justice system has deliberately overturned traditional legal safeguards for the accused in matters of alleged sexual crimes and had these new principles embedded in the system. The last has been done in order to get more convictions against those variously accused amid an environment of public outrage – indeed, of hyper-ventilation – at child sex abuse, and, no doubt, to justify the huge expense of the Royal Commission.
Risible attempts at damaging the reputations of defenders of Pell form but one front of one battle in the ongoing war over his reputation. This effort has gone hand in hand with the mainstream media’s total aversion to allowing any of the forensic, investigative work undertaken by Keith Windschuttle and Andrew Bolt in Australia and Chris Friel in the UK to seep into the broader public consciousness. Taken together, the burden of this work shows Pell’s conviction, indeed his initial charging, and the subsequent rejection of his appeal, to have been utterly without foundation, on the facts of the case. He simply could not have done it.
The non-reporting by the news media in Australia of new information and analysis which proves Pell to have been innocent is little short of scandalous. More to the point here, it is utterly self-serving. The same could be said of the non-reporting of eminent legal opinions aired by respected legal scholars like John Finnis and Gerard Bradley since the rejection of the appeal by the Victorian Court of Appeal. They cogently demonstrated the danger to an accused in future legal cases of the he said/she said variety if Pell’s conviction is allowed to stand. The same could also be said of the eerie international parallels of aspects of the Pell case, such as the case of the egregious Carl Beech in the UK and the Billy Doe fabrication in the US. In each instance, innocent men died in prison or died with their reputations in shreds. Within the media’s cone of silence, exculpatory material never makes it out into the broader community, such that at least the court of public opinion, if not of that of judges seemingly determined to circle the wagons of previous decisions, might be persuaded of a good man’s innocence.
It is simply not in the interests of the anti-Pell forces in the secularist press to have his conviction challenged in any way. In any prominent legal case other than one involving a hate figure like Pell, the discoveries of Friel, Bolt and Windschuttle and the legal scholarship of Finnis and Bradley would most likely have been all over the media.
Another battle front is the continuing wave of books designed to ensure that Pell’s reputation remains forever besmirched, that there is no coming back for this prince of the Church. It is now up to four books (three already published or re-published and one in the wings) from some of Pell’s bitterest enemies. The re-issue of an earlier attack book by David Marr and the appearance of a 2019 edition of Milligan’s demolition job show that Team Get Pell clearly believes its work is still not yet done, even as the man has languished in prison. The post-trial narrative must remain in the safe hands of those who created the image of Pell-as-monster in the first place.
There is, evidently, that much at stake. In much the same way that no one is now allowed even to think there is anything wrong with homosexuality or abortion, so no one can be allowed to believe that George Pell might be innocent. That would simply be too much to bear.
So the Pell Wars continue, but they are merely one front in the overall battle to ensure that the Church remains snookered, and so excluded from the public square.
The other immense recent wins achieved by the secularist progressives and by the sexual revolution, outlined above, will be equally solidly defended by the keepers of the prize. It has been a massively impressive effort, worthy of our old friends Gramsci and Alinsky. An effort that fully justifies the sombre pessimism of the late Cardinal George.
So kudos to those who have set out to destroy the old ways, the traditional family and its defenders, organised religion with a public face and a strong voice, and fellow travellers who might not themselves be faithful to the Deity but who nonetheless see merit in a values-based Christian nation, and benefits for all therefrom.
You have had, as members of VicPol might say, “a result”. You are still winning.