Pell Acquitted, You Say? Well the Show Must Go On

You would think that the acquittal of Cardinal George Pell might have drawn a line under the child sexual abuse saga, especially in Victoria, where it reached its highest level of hysteria. You would think that two decades of no reported child abuse of any sort in the city and Roman Catholic diocese of Ballarat, where a few errant clerics, now unfrocked and imprisoned, were responsible for abuse on an epic scale a generation ago, might have reassured locals and the world at large that a shameful chapter of history was over. You would think that people of compassion and common sense might agree that the best course now, after “survivors” have been apologised to by everyone from the Prime Minister down and handsomely “compensated”, would be to forgive, if possible, and try to forget.

You might think all those things, but you’d be wrong.

Child abuse put Ballarat on the world map for a time, and child abuse, if that city’s civic art gallery’s best efforts succeed, is going to put it back. Why let the Ballarat “brand” drift away on the tide of fading memory when it can be “refreshed” and forced on the public’s attention again? When child abuse subsided as the issue obsessing the nation, when the revelations and the finger-pointing ceased on account of there being nothing more to reveal and no one new to point a finger at, what was Ballarat to do? Slide back into the provincial tedium in which it had languished since its gold ran out? No, the gallery decided, the “survivors” should be dusted off and paraded centre stage again so that their experience could be re-lived – in full colour, like a remake of a popular movie.

And so we have Out of the Darkness: A Survivor’s Journey, a “major exhibition” at the taxpayer-funded Art Gallery of Ballarat. The particular survivor whose peregrinations are visually chronicled is Robert House, described as “a survivor of institutional child sexual abuse” not further specified, other than he says it occurred in Sydney, not Ballarat. He “sees art,” rhapsodises the gallery website, “as a vehicle to challenge deeply entrenched power structures within society” (no prizes for guessing what they are). House is the curator of the exhibition, which he regards as the fulfilment of his quest for “justice”. Ballarat Gallery seems to see it as their very own chamber of horrors. “We encourage visitors to attend this exhibition,” warns the website spookily, “with a family member, friend or support person” (how about an enemy you want to frighten?).

Out of the Darkness,” writes a Ballarat newspaper, “depicts individuals and groups linked to child sexual abuse, heroes, survivors and their stories, alleged perpetrators and those who have been charged or convicted.” With cynical disregard for his acquittal by the High Court, which the abuse lobby, the ABC and leftists in general still like to pretend was a technicality, not a declaration of innocence, Cardinal Pell is dragged on stage as a representative of the three last categories. “Survivor” Glenn Morgan snipes at him in a kindergarten-level work called “I Saw Nothing, I Heard Nothing, I Did Nothing” (right) in which a caricature priest is gazing out of a confessional with a speech bubble saying, “I’m very sorry but I can’t remember.” Below, labelled “Royal Commission”, we read “Cardinal Pell. He said Ridsdale’s offending was ‘a sad story’ that was ‘not of much interest to me.’ Comments that sparked anger and disbelief among SURVIVORS.” It is true that Pell did say that and no doubt regrets it; he meant, clumsily, that the abuser and erstwhile priest Ridsdale was outside his area of responsibility. But whatever he had said, Pell’s absence from an exhibition of this type would have been unthinkable. Cultivated resentment like this needs a scapegoat. It’s so unfair, the organisers must be thinking, that the successful appeal spoilt the whole symmetry of this cautionary tale, in which evildoers get their deserts, not acquittals.

The most prominent exhibit is a reworking of Géricault’s The Raft of the “Medusa” by New York-based Peter Daverington, who says he “settled on the idea of survival at sea as a metaphor for the survivors of child abuse –they were abused by a system entrusted with their care.” To compare the plight of shipwreck survivors, dying of thirst and exposure, with that of “survivors” of abuse is a heartless and absurd exaggeration.

A problem with collective wallows in guilt and innocence like Out of the Darkness is that you never know who’s telling the truth. Why, for example, is Peter Clarke not among the exhibitors? He has all the requisite qualifications. He’s an artist, he was in a Ballarat orphanage for 18 years where he says he was abused, and, according to ABC ace reporter Sarah Ferguson, subjected to further abuse at a swimming pool by none other than Pell himself. Yet the same Peter Clarke had told the Ballarat Courier in 2005 that he had “loved” growing up in the orphanage. “It was great fun,” he said. His “toughest time there,” the paper quoted him as saying, “was when he was released.” Did the ingenuity of Quadrant Online in uncovering his blithely delivered contradictions cost Peter a place in the show as someone who had let the side down by unwittingly demonstrating that not everything a “survivor” says is necessarily true?

The cynicism of the Ballarat Art Gallery and its publicity-seeking director Louise Tegart in staging this exhibition is breathtaking. It will do nothing to help survivors who are genuinely emotionally damaged; nothing to meet, as the exhibition blurb piously puts it, “the need for compassion and support within the community for people dealing with the consequences” of child sexual abuse; nothing to advance those concepts beloved on the Left of “healing” and “reconciliation”; and nothing to further the less fashionable one of forgiveness, which is surely what every human error requires. It is simply a cynical attempt to cash in on suffering and guilt so that Ballarat again shines in the light of modish attention and tourists with a taste for factitious and self-righteous anger return to the city. That it is meant to perpetuate child sexual abuse as a Ballarat attraction is demonstrated by the involvement of Continuous Voices, “a community-led project working towards creating a permanent memorial space in Ballarat to acknowledge all survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse and those,” in the genteel locution of the gallery website, “who are no longer with us.”

This exhibition is an abuse of art because it is not about art but propaganda and revenge.

12 thoughts on “Pell Acquitted, You Say? Well the Show Must Go On

  • gary@erko says:

    It’s a great tourist attraction. Don’t visit the Elvis Festival at Parkes or the towns with painted wheat silos. Come to Ballarat, the Paedophile Capital of Australia.

  • Hemingway says:

    Let’s really go for it! What about a Clerical Child Abuse Theme Park with automated priests dropping their trousers, wicked robot nuns wielding canes, and a robotic Cardinal chuckling with delight! The ABC types will come in their droves to be shocked anew. Actors dressed in clerical garb will chase little actor children around faux cathedral interiors to the delight of the perpetually offended who will walk around with permanent worried looks on their faces. What a great little earner for Ballarat, especially when the show goes on the road to other cities. Roll up! Roll up! See the live Cardinal get his just deserts!

  • Biggles says:

    Lying and cynicism have always been the dominant paradigms among the Left. Those referred to above have raised it to an art form. (Sorry; weak joke in terribly poor taste. Should get me booted out of Quadrant online.)

  • Ian MacKenzie says:

    There seem to be two ways to respond to this exhibition. The first is to conclude that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and stage an exhibition entitled Leftwing Pedophiles. As Ms Tegart has established the precedent that innocence is no bar to inclusion, portraits of the obvious, such as Milton Orkopoulos and Bob Ellis, could be joined by more speculative candidates such as Gough, Neville and Bob, none of whom are likely to sue at this point.
    The second is to conclude that this is a pathetic provincial attempt at being woke, with no artistic merit. I favour the latter, not least because of the use of the overworked and now kitsch Raft of the Medusa meme. I’m not sure what offends me more – publicly funded propaganda or the misuse of Géricault’s masterpiece for petty sectarian political gain.

  • en passant says:

    Why complain about the cost? We have an endless stream of the stuff being printed.
    Since when was truth, facts or reality a barrier to our post-civilised culture?
    Finally, locking people in their homes is just Dan Druff’s way of making sure nobody visits this travesty to art.

  • Sydgal says:

    I was interested to read about this exhibition in Ballarat since recently becoming aware of the Raft artwork. It was unveiled in Parliament House in October 2018 by J Gillard to mark the National Apology to victims and survivors of Institutional CSA. News reports from the time explain “The painting, called Raft of the CLAN – a reference to advocacy group Care Leavers Australasia Network – also pays tribute to those instrumental in the royal commission…. The faces of key people (survivors, royal commissioners and politicians) form the painting’s border”.

    R House, who commissioned the work, also appears to have been involved in the artwork (posters and signs) outside the Melbourne Courts in 2019. On 13 March 2019 an ABC digital content maker tweeted a photo of House and others outside the County Court with the caption: “Abuse survivor Robert House says today’s sentencing of Pell finally gives voice to all Australian children. House holds a poster “Prisoner 666 Cardinal Pell”. Later in August, he appears outside Victoria’s Supreme Court holding a poster “Justice for Witness J”.

    Many of the signs held outside the Courts also related to the Redress Scheme. According to news reports, CLAN referred more than 1000 people to the commission over five years. In February 2018 Royal Commissioners and a number of politicians attended a morning tea in Sydney where CLAN members gathered to thank the Royal Commission for its work over 2013-2017.

    Some additional Ballarat art events and activities on the above theme are at: https://www.creativeballarat.com.au/continuousvoices

  • paerobin says:

    As an unWoke Atheist I find the tone of this ‘Christian’ article a mirror image of any Woke apologia for one of their heroes. The sarcasm of this statement, defending an institution so skilled at hammering messages into skulls, seems ever so slightly hypocritical: “Why let the Ballarat ‘brand’ drift away on the tide of fading memory when it can be ‘refreshed’ and forced on the public’s attention again?” The acrobatics of this next sequence should only impress Pell’s blindest supporters: “He said Ridsdale’s offending was ‘a sad story’ that was ‘not of much interest to me.’ Comments that sparked anger and disbelief among SURVIVORS. It is true that Pell did say that and no doubt regrets it; he meant, clumsily, that the abuser and erstwhile priest Ridsdale was outside his area of responsibility.”
    Can you imagine someone today not intervening to prevent child abuse because it “was outside his area of responsibility”? This spin is utterly grotesque. For Cardinal Pell, despite the travesty of his accusation/conviction/imprisonment and the continuing Woke blindness in the face of High Court exoneration, his Ballarat days will continue to haunt him.

  • Occidental says:

    Paerobin, I am an unwoke agnostic. I could not care less about either the Catholic Church, or George Pell. But I suggest you research your facts about Ridsdale and Pell, before you allege that Pell suspected that Ridsdale was contemporaneously offending, and was in a position to prevent it. From what I have read, Pells comments were about historical events. Ridsdale had left Ballarat by the time Pell arrived in 1973. Finally notwithstanding the public outrage, or atleast some of the publics outrage, knowing of someones “potential” offending with children does not impose upon every adult who comes within that knowledge a positive obligation to prevent it. It is all about each persons beliefs and obligations as to what to do as a result of that knowledge. I for one do not regard myself as the protector of everyone elses children.

  • paerobin says:

    Occidental, you may be mistaken about Pell and Ridsdale’s interaction. As an example, this from Wikipedia: “Cardinal George Pell, a former Archbishop of Melbourne, testified before the 1993 hearing that he and Ridsdale had shared a clergy house together while Pell was an assistant priest at St Alipius’ Church with Ridsdale in the 1970s.”

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    The failure of the Leftist moral cabal to get George Pell revealed the corruption of the Victorian Legal system from the coppers to the appeal Judges – rotten from top to bottom – saved only by the Federal High Court – the Law survived and one more time we re affirmed that a person is innocent until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.It is remarkable how little is known about high profile Left wing pederasts such as Bob Collins the NT Senator who abused the Tiwi Islands children long enough to create an outbreak of suicide and produce a generation of girly boys to sell themselves on the streets of Darwin. Yet – it seems even sadder – even more corruption – to have placed pederasty and pedophilia into such ideological boxes – surely such evil is everyone’s business. Yes. Occidental, it is every citizens responsibility to regard themselves as the protector of all children ( under the age of say 16) . There were children in Wadeye in NT who used to greet me when they walked into the classroom by grabbing me on my oldfella – they were used to treating men this way – their uncles and others … and each day until they stopped it – I had to write an incident report about it to the school, and leave it up to the Principal to follow through with. One day I watched with one boy out the classroom window as they flew his father off to jail in Darwin, and he wept. Pedophilia and pederasty are a crime against children which sentences them to deep unhappiness or death … no side of politics should be using it as advertising … and no Art Gallery should be displaying it as art. This is not ‘art’ its virtue signalling with a double twist – its making buggered boys into heroes.

  • Daffy says:

    @Sydgal, Ah, the Gillard Royal Commission. I have a feeling it should have been a RC into government outsourcing of law enforcement to NGOs. Didn’t work then, can’t work now. The thing is, it appears that if anyone sought to report CSA, they were ignored, the complaint hushed up, and the perpetrator protected either by design, as per the Victoria police, or by indifference as per everywhere else. With a record of appalling derogation of duty by all the law authorities from parliaments down, no wonder CSA occurred. Government’s fault. No one elses.

  • Sydgal says:

    The transcripts and exhibits on the RC website provide some further details on historical matters. Some extracts below.
    Former priest P Bongiorno’s statement to RC Nov 2015.
    “I have a vivid recollection of how shocked I was when I learned that Father RIDSDALE had appeared in court and what he had been charged with. I had had no idea. At no time during my three and a half years serving as a priest in the Ballarat Diocese did anyone make any report or complaint to me about the sexual abuse of minors by any priest or brother, and I was not in any other way made aware of these matters…

    Cardinal George Pell media statement 20 May 2015
    …Secondly, I never moved Ridsdale out of Mortlake Parish. I never moved him anywhere. I would never have condoned or participated in a decision to transfer Ridsdale in the knowledge that he had abused children, and I did not do so. I was a member of the College of Consultors for Ballarat from 1977 until I left Ballarat in 1984….My recollection is that Bishop Mulkearns did not raise any paedophilia allegations against Ridsdale at the Consultors meetings I attended, or at any time before or after such meetings. Contrary to some media reports, minutes of the meetings of the Consultors are not “secret” and were produced to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry which did not raise them in the hearings or in their final report. Indeed, I addressed these meetings in my submission to the Victorian Inquiry. 
    Ridsdale transcript in Ballarat in May 2015
    Q. At some stage, Mr Ridsdale, you had formed a sufficient friendship with then Father Pell to ask him to accompany you to court when you were facing charges relating to child sexual abuse; isn’t that right?
    A. No, it was the barrister who suggested George Pell.

    Q. So, what dealings had you had with Father Pell, as he was when you were at St Alipius, to enable you to feel comfortable with him accompanying you to court in the early 1990s?
    A. I don’t know, I can’t remember having any dealings with George at all. The barrister was looking for people who might come and speak on my behalf, and George Pell was one of the people that he suggested.
    Q. Well, you must have had a conversation with him to enable him to be in the presence of the barrister to be asked by the barrister, mustn’t you?
    A. No.
    Q. Well, how did he turn up?
    A. I dealt with the barrister, and the barrister dealt with anyone he thought might come along to the court and say – put in some good words for me.
    THE CHAIR: Q. Did you suggest to the barrister that George Pell might be approached to put in a good word for you?
    A. I don’t remember, but I don’t think so. I think it was just the barrister looking for different people.
    Q. You have been photographed actually approaching the court with Father Pell, as he then was; you’ve seen that photograph?
    A. Yes. That’s right, I was living at St Francis’ Monastery in the city and George came to the – as far as I remember, Your Honour, he came to the St Francis’ Monastery and walked up to the Magistrates’ Court in La Trobe Street with me.
    Q. And I assume you had a conversation with him that morning, did you?
    A. Well, it was only just whatever words we had on the way to the court.

    Q. Did you ask Father Pell what he might be able to say on your behalf? A. No, I didn’t.

    Q. Did you discuss with Father Pell that morning the offences that you had committed?
    A. No, I don’t think we discussed them, but they were public anyway, so he would have known.
    Q. They were public because you’d already pleaded guilty to them, was that right?
    A. I’d been charged, yes.
    Q. Yes, in a court, you’d been to court previously?
    A. No, I hadn’t; no, this was the first occasion I think, wasn’t it? Wasn’t this the first occasion at the Magistrates —
    Q. Well, I’m not sure; Ms Furness may know.
    A. I think in the Magistrates’ Court in 1993, before I had the short gaol sentence, I think that’s the time we’re talking about, so I hadn’t even – I don’t think I’d even pleaded at that stage.
     Q. Did Father Pell have anything to say in the court that day?
    A. I don’t think he did, I don’t. I think from newspaper reports, I have read that he accompanied me but didn’t speak; I think that’s true. I can’t remember anyone speaking on my behalf.
    MS FURNESS: Q. Were you with the barrister when the barrister spoke to, Father, then Auxiliary Bishop Pell about what the court case was about and what he wanted the Bishop to say?
    A. I don’t know.
    Q. Did you have a discussion with then Bishop Pell about what you wanted him to say?
    A. No, I didn’t.
    Q. So you say that the only discussions that anyone had with then Bishop Pell about talking in favour of you at the court case was your barrister?
    A. That’s right.
    Q. You had no discussions –A. I left all that sort of stuff up to the barrister, to the legal team, because I was – I just didn’t know really what was going on.  

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