132: The Appeal of Cardinal Pell—Peter Westmore
The title has a double meaning: his legal appeal on charges of sexual abuse that happened June 4-5, 2019, and his personal appeal as a man and as a Christian. I could have called it Everything You Know About the Pell Trial Is Wrong.
My guest this week explains why. Peter Westmore is the former President of the National Civic Council, and a writer for News Weekly. Westmore attended both trials of Cardinal Pell (and the appeal last week) and heard all the evidence provided to the court—twice. In June 2015, a complainant accused George Cardinal Pell of sexual assault (forced oral sex and genital fondling) involving two choir boys in the sacristy, just moments after Sunday Mass at the Melbourne Cathedral. In broad daylight. With Pell in full liturgical vestments. With the door open. In a church swarming with people leaving the building or strolling the nearby hallways.
None of the 25 witnesses at each trial (the first one of which ended in a hung jury) could attest to the truth of the claimant’s charges, which themselves changed over time. The other alleged victim ended up overdosing on heroin, and, according to his own mother’s testimony, denied ever been sexually abused. The entire case against Cardinal Pell rests on one man’s say-so, featuring multiple layers of improbability if not complete impossibility.
In this episode you will learn
- Why even Pell’s ideological foes feel this the guilty verdict is absurd.
- How the anti-Catholic media in Australia, a police force intent on trawling for evidence long before any accusers came forward, a puerile anti-Pell song by Tim Minchin, and multiple apologies in parliament and by the Royal Commission in the lead-up to the trial created the perfect storm for a guilty verdict—almost no matter what.
- The reasons why the theologically orthodox and blunt-spoken Cardinal became a lightning rod and an ideal scapegoat for the sins of actual priest predators.
- In what sense Catholicism itself was put on trial and found guilty.
- The Christian manner in which Cardinal Pell conducted himself during the trials, from the close perspective of a daily attendee.
Resources mentioned in this episode
- Peter Westmore’s website
- Westmore’s free ebook on the facts of the two trials (a GREAT resource)
- Video footage of Pell being interrogated for the first time about the outlandish charges: Watch here.
- George Pell: Defender of the Faith Down Under biography by Tess Livingstone
- To write to George Cardinal Pell:Melbourne Assessment Prison317-353 Spencer St.West Melbourne VIC 3003, Australia
*Remember that everything you write will be read by other people at the prison.
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Food for Thought:
How much has the #MeToo movement colored the mindset of discussing (with any sense of balance) charges that may well be false?
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