Letters | A correction, the acquittal of Cardinal Pell & more

A GENEROUS ARTICLE

I have just read Gary Dorrien’s generous article about my father, John Cort, and his book Christian Socialism (“From Catholic Worker to DSA,” May). (Full disclosure: although I own a copy of the book, I have never read it.) I have just two quibbles about dates in the article. Dad entered Harvard in 1931, not 1933; and we moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1967, not 1965. Otherwise, thanks for giving Dad such coverage. I’m sure he would have been pleased, even though he would undoubtedly have wanted to debate Dorrien about their disagreements.

Nick Cort
Bow, N.H.

 

HUNT HARDER

George Scialabba, in his extended review of the newly reissued The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell (“The Cant-Hunter,” April), devotes a full page of the five-page piece to a polemic against the so-called “diversity industry.” He apparently feels that the “N-word” should be rehabilitated for general use. He notes that Orwell was critical of UK pacifists during World War II as limited to the wealthy who lived on an island defended by a strong navy. Yet Scialabba seems to lack Orwell’s cant-detection skills when it comes to his own writing as a Harvard-educated white male author defending the “N-word” and critical of diversity in today’s America.

Richard F. Gillum
Howard University, Washington, D.C.

 

A GIFT

Thank you for publishing a sensitive review of Garth Greenwell’s Cleanness (“Apollo’s Not Enough,” May). It is an infrequent, though joyful occurrence, that a Roman Catholic publication will review, let alone recommend, such a work. Thank you.  

I do have one comment about the review stating that a particularly graphic sexual episode was saved from being pornographic. Many gay men, though certainly not all, view the details of sexual pleasure as part and parcel of who we are and as something of a gift to a largely erotophobic church and world. It is my contention as a priest of the Episcopal Church that we Christians have been far too influenced by the marked asceticism of early monasticism than was and is good for us.  

Carlton Kelley
Grayslake, Ill.

 

INNOCENT UNTIL GUILTY

I was very sad to see one particular comment in the piece by Massimo Faggioli (“Remaining Unsettled,” May). He says that just because Cardinal Pell was acquitted by seven to nil by the High Court of Australia this does not prove that he is innocent. In the Australian justice system one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The seven High Court judges found that the jury should have had some doubt based on the sworn testimony of twenty-three witnesses all of whom spoke of the circumstances of the alleged crime as being impossible considering that Cardinal Pell was never alone during the period stated by the prosecution after celebrating High Mass. Thus Cardinal Pell should not have been found guilty, thus he is presumed innocent.

Carmel Brooks
Glenbrook, NSW, Australia

 

MORE THAN ‘MISHANDLED’

Massimo Faggioli grossly understates the truth about Cardinal Pell’s case. The case was not “mishandled,” as he states. Rather, it was a long-running and carefully orchestrated attempt by his enemies within the Victorian government and police, with the ABC as the amanuensis using “reenacted” television heavy with implication without evidence, and even a comedian singing a salacious song in a concerted effort to fit him up with something he simply didn’t do. The police brief was even thrown out twice by the office of public prosecutions, and the police had to prosecute it independently.

Faggioli fails to mention that the High Court did indeed find the cardinal innocent in a unanimous verdict—all seven. The principal reason was that there were over twenty witnesses who saw him after the Mass standing in public on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In particular, Msgr. Charles Portelli and the sacristan were with him the entire time these offenses were supposed to have happened. In fact the case should never have come to trial because the magistrate in the committal hearing actually noted that if Portelli and Potter (the sacristan) are to be believed then there was no chance of a guilty verdict.

Two other important statements in Faggioli’s piece are incorrect. The trial was not a secret trial. It was open to the public; reportage was suppressed because the police were threatening him with a second charge (which was summarily dismissed as too trivial) after he was found guilty. Most who actually attended the trial were shocked by the eventual verdict, which was obviously a product of the two-year-long media campaign against the cardinal.

The police, the ABC, and even the government of Victoria are now desperately trying to cover their part in this injustice via hints in the redacted royal commission report. They also have reason to be very nervous at the possibility of finding themselves part of a criminal libel suit, a step that many of Pell’s supporters are encouraging.

Angela Shanahan
Campbell, Australian Capital Territory,
Australia

 

CLOUD OF SUSPICION

It’s true that Cardinal Pell has not been found innocent, but that is virtually always true of acquittals. In a case like Pell’s—or just about any case involving clerical sex abuse—as soon as accusations are made and charges are filed, he is presumed guilty in much of the media and consequently by much of the public. Innocent or not, he will never have the cloud of suspicion removed. Your remarks don’t help, particularly because in referring to the charge, you say that he was accused of molesting two boys, but you don’t add the important point that that accusation was made by only one person. The supposed second victim is dead, but he had repeatedly said that Pell had not abused him. This crucial detail alters the perspective significantly and its omission strongly suggests bias.

Jerome Donnelly
Winter Park, Fla.

 

REPAIRING THE DAMAGE

The Catholic Church in Victoria did protect many priests who abused children. This is a fact.

George Pell was the so-called head of the church and he knew or should have known what was happening in his church. Nothing was done and more child abuse occurred.

As a result of a great deal of evidence given to the police and the ABC, charges were brought against George Pell. It was not a conspiracy or anti-Catholic campaign as you state, but because of the witnesses who came forward. Most of the evidence came from Catholics.

The witness in the Pell case was drilled by a $20,000-a-day lawyer for a day and a half. The twelve jury members believed the witness, as did the presiding judge and two of the appeal judges.

The ABC produced a television program, Revelation, in which two witnesses claimed George Pell was involved in sexual misconduct. There are others making similar claims.

Yes, the Catholic Church spent millions defending Pell and have attacked the accusers. I cannot believe the witnesses are lying but someone is. Given Pell was not cross-examined in court he took the easy way out.

The church needs to really investigate George Pell and what happened here in Victoria, stop attacking the witnesses, and clean out those responsible including George Pell. Yes, he got off on a legal point, but there are civil cases coming up.

The real issue is what action is the church taking to acknowledge what has happened and repair the damage so the overwhelming number of Catholics who are decent folk can have a belief in their church again.

Richard Patrick Bartley
Emerald, Victoria, Australia 

 

Published in the June 2020 issue: 
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