Catholic Church vs Jury System

I suppose it should come as no surprise how little faith the Catholic church as in the jury system. In this article, a church that invented the Spanish inquisition points the finger at the Victorian Appeals Court for upholding the jury conviction of Cardinal George Pell. George Weigel and Anthony Charles Smith join a long line of Catholic advocates claiming that the Cardinal has not been accorded his right to presumption of innocence.

Weigel states: “The charge of sexual abuse, however prima facie implausible, now trumps the traditional legal standard in the Anglosphere that innocence until presumed until guilt if proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A close reading of the majority opinion supports the fear that this standard was effectively reversed in Cardinal Pell’s case, such that the onus was on him to prove his innocence.”

No, I don’t think juries are above prejudice.

But neither are judges or senior counsel. Under the Australian system, guilt in criminal matters should be decided by juries not judges.

A number of other priests and intellectuals writing from their grates are trying to undermine the jury system. They seem to have forgotten that George Pell has been granted the presumption of innocence, ever since Pell’s exploits in Bathurst came publicly known some 40 odd years ago. Much worst, Pell was presumed innocent enough to be accorded the privilege of covering-up similar crimes committed by others and to ruthlessly pursue the victims should they get some obscure fact wrong in re-telling an ordeal of sexual torture by a Catholic prelate, brother or sister.

Of course we should be mindful of false accusation but we should no longer be lectured from the pulpit. I went to Catholic schools where I was taught by Brigidine Sisters and Christian Brothers. I was never sexually assaulted nor did I ever witness someone being attacked in this way. For the most part, I was schooled by strict, sometimes harsh teachers, who were trying to control classes way too big. At times my teachers had way too little grasp of the subject being taught and resorted to the strap, especially when ‘found out’ by a bright pupil. For example Br Charles ‘Basher’ Dillon was a thug. Charlie taught me in Junior. He used to come up behind me and slam my head down on the desk in front and then he would haul me up by the lobe of an ear and berate me in front of the class. Basher did that and worse to others in my Junior year. I’m not making excuses for Dillon, but he had to teach us because the Brother who took our class had a nervous breakdown ans did not turn up for 2 weeks before Basher replaced him.

Fortunately there were also exceptions, I had the benefit of being taught by Br ‘Doc’ Campbell at Gregory Terrace who had an excellent grasp of Latin and Roman history, he made a dead language come to life. I had a good French teacher at a time when the jocks reined supreme in our school and any hint of appreciation of education and learning had you labelled a ‘poofter’ by the other boys under protection from the Brothers. To fight back often resulted in humiliation by sexually repressed adults struggling with repression imposed by a church run by right-wing finactics like Pope John Paul II.

Here is one of the articles published in support of Pell in the September 2019 Issue of The Annals so judge for yourselves. – Ed. WBT


One response to “Catholic Church vs Jury System

  1. What the jury heard

    *** WARNING – sensitive material ***

    I find it strange that the many defenders of Pell from inside and outside the Catholic Church and from the legal profession are so ready to criticise the jury’s guilty verdict of Pell for sexual abuse. I have not seen anywhere where the defenders of Pell actually cite the actual words of the complainants, certainly not in full. They talk about the circumstances of the abuse but not the actual words of the complainants.

    Many of the men who deride the complainants’ evidence as being implausible, impossible, and even psychologically disturbed seem fearful of their testimony. The apologists for Pell call one complainant a ‘liar’ and the other a ‘fantasist’.

    Both complainants were altar boys at the time of their abuse by Pell.

    I was once an altar boy myself in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Boys strived for that job in those days and competition to impress the priest was sometimes fierce. You got to wear robes and ring bells and answer the priest in Latin when he said mass. You got to help with the burning of the incense and, most of all, you got to carry the bread and wine.

    These were often daunting and exacting tasks to young boys as the priest was usually very strict because the whole practice of religion was on show to often very large audiences.

    Pell was a big powerful man.

    His authority and power is conveyed by some of the words he spoke to the complainants in the sacristy and in the corridor at the time he abused them. To retell these words would be an ordeal in itself, let alone under threat of perjury. The crime committed by Pell was most horrific as it involved an elder of the church sexually penetrating at least one of the boys.

    To correct the imbalance where the attacks on the complainants are ad hominem I quote verbatim the evidence given by one complainant, who, for legal reasons, cannot be named.

    “We were in a corner of the room … when we heard a bit of noise approaching and we were trying to quieten down a little bit and then he (Pell) entered the room,” the complainant said.

    “He planted himself in the doorway and said something like: ‘What are you doing in here?’ or ‘You’re in trouble,’” the complainant added.

    “There was this moment where we all just sort of froze and then he undid his trousers or his belt, like he started moving underneath his robes,” the complainant testified.

    “Then (the friend) sort of started squirming and struggling. (The friend) was sort of crouched and sort of flailing around a bit. Pell was standing and he had (the friend) crouched in front of him. (The friend’s) head was being controlled and it was down near Pell’s genitals,” the complainant said.

    ″‘Can you let us go? We didn’t do anything,’ was said before (the friend) was pushed down,” the complainant said.

    “I was pushed down and crouching or kneeling. Pell was standing,” the complainant said.
    The complainant said the abuse lasted about two minutes.

    “He instructed me to undo my pants and take off my pants and I did that. Then he started touching my genitalia, masturbating or trying to do something with my genitalia with his hand,” the complainant said.

    “Pell was touching himself on his penis with his other hand,” the complainant said.

    Corridor Incident
    “The whole choir were exiting the cathedral. We were rushing to disrobe. There was a clutch of choirboys going through and I was among them. Pell was on his own in the middle of the choir,” the complainant told the jury.

    “I saw him and he pushed himself up against me on the wall and Pell squeezed my genitalia, my testicles, my penis. Nothing was said. It was all within a matter of seconds. One, two, three seconds,” the complainant told the jury.

    “Pell was in robes and I was in robes. He squeezed and kept walking. I didn’t tell anyone at the time because I didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I didn’t want to rock the boat with my family, my schooling, my life,” the complainant said.

    “I didn’t caution (the friend) about watching out for what Pell might do because I had no intention back then of telling anyone ever,” the complainant added.

    I name some of the many defenders of the Cardinal Pell here.

    Fr Frank Brennan, Keith Windschuttle, Andrew Bolt, Anthony Charles Smith (former criminal lawyer), Chris S Friel, Chris Merritt (legal affairs editor of The Australian), Bret Walker (Senior Counsel), Pell’s barrister, former Prime Minister’s John Howard and Tony Abbott.

    Pell is now in the High Court of Australia, he does not yet have special leave to appeal, but he has got where very few convicted criminals get, a chance to be exonerated by the highest judges in the land.

    The strongest legal argument Pell has goes as follows.

    Remember this is not an appeal against the jury verdict. It is an appeal against the majority decision in Victoria’s Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal supported the Crown’s submission about Complainant A’s testimony:

    ” … the complainant was a very compelling witness. “He was clearly not a liar. He was not a fantasist. He was a witness of truth.”

    The Court of Appeal added , having reviewed the Complainant’s video evidence (the same as had been shown to the jury on the trial): “Throughout his evidence, A came across as someone who was telling the truth. He did not seek to embellish his evidence or tailor it in a manner favourable to the prosecution. As might have been expected, there were some things which he could remember and many things which he could not. And his explanations of why that was so had the ring of truth.

    What Bret Walker (SC) will probably claim on behalf of Pell is that:

    The Majority (2 of 3 judges) recited the correct principles to be applied and paid lip service to those principles but failed to apply them as they were bound to do. They were required to examine all of the evidence to determine whether it could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that complainant’s account was true. He will claim that they did not and say that this amounts to an error of law. Walker will argue that Pell should have leave to appeal to the High Court and that appeal should succeed.

    If Pell is successful in his appeal and is acquitted, it will NOT be on the ground that the complainant’s evidence is false but only on the ground that the whole of the evidence did not prove the offences beyond reasonable doubt.

    Such are the vagaries of the law in this country and Pell may go free.

    If Pell is successful, the Catholic Church would be unlikely to allow him to continue to hold the high positions in the church he has to date. Pell is a liability whether guilty or not guilty.

    Ian Curr
    27 November 2019


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