Cardinal Pell received a Catholic funeral attended by 30 bishops, hundreds of priests, the opposition leader and a former prime minister. But he was denied a state funeral by the Labour authorities, even though that’s the norm for important public figures. Apparently, it would be too destressing for victims according to premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews. Even though Pell has been cleared of false accusations of abuse and of claims that his Melbourne response did not report abusers when it in fact did. It seems especially hypocritical, since Andrews has so far still not made an apology to victims of abuse in Victoria’s state schools despite a motion requesting exactly that. And now, hundreds of cases have come forward regarding historic abuse in these schools and it is said to be only the tip of the ice-berg. Yet, the Royal Commission singled out the Catholic Church while brushing over this secular school abuse.
So, while Andrews is busy behaving like a hypocrite, it seemed fitting to continue to honour Pell and his history of fighting child sexual abuse and corruption and we advise readers to read the article of Marcatornet ‘Cardinal Pell: a sensitive servant of sex abuse survivors’ by abuse victim James Parker, who wrote on behalf of not just himself but other victims as well.
The Melbourne response
Cardinal Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 as part of an effort by Pope John Paul II to appoint more orthodox bishops to restore the Church. Pell replaced Progressive Liberal Frank Little, under whom he’d served as auxiliary bishop and who had strongly disliked his prospective successor. Little had a well-known history of covering up abuse.
Pell quickly changed this and instituted the Melbourne response, years before the abuse scandals came out in Boston. The first public figure in Australia to systematically address child sexual abuse in any institution.
Peter O’Callaghan QC was appointed the first Independent Commissioner. He investigated 351 complaints of abuse, of which 97 per cent were upheld, and out of 304 complaints reported, 97 were reported to police, and 76 victims he encouraged to go to police. That same year, the Victoria Police issued a press release praising the Melbourne Response, and NSW police royal commissioner Justice James Wood praised the Melbourne Response as a “model” for other institutions to follow.
Abuse in the archdiocese of Melbourne was virtually rooted out. Nearly all infamous abuse cases and cover ups are from before Pell became archbishop.
When Pell was attacked in 2015, a woman who had been a victim of abuse in the Church wrote to Gerard Henderson of the SydneyInstitute to defend Pell and the importance of the Melbourne response and what it had addressed.
Accuser zero: Child molester David Ridsdale
So how did the attacks on Pell start? How did he come to be associated with abuse cover ups rather than the Modernist Little? It started in 2002 after Pell had become Archbishop of Sydney with claims from David Ridsdale in 60 minutes, the nephew and victim of infamous serial abuser priest Gerald Ridsdale, that Pell had attempted to buy his silence. Pell would have asked him what it took to keep him quite. David’s siblings supported his claims.
Problem is, that it turned out that Pell would have allegedly said this while an official police investigation was already underway and buying silence was completely pointless at that point. Furthermore, it turned out that David himself had asked for the process to be kept quite/internal (an unrealistic request) making it even stranger for Pell to have been trying to bribe him. Not even the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse ended up upholding those complaints and Louise Milligan did not make use of them in her book, which accepted pretty much any gossip about Pell as valid. Yet, they were viewed as credible for over a decade and got the snowball rolling.
Even worse was the discovery that David Ridsdale had himself ended up molesting an underage boy. When trying to ingrain himself with victim groups he downplayed it and lied, claiming they had both been underage and that he had merely exposed himself (or so the victim groups say). This was also only uncovered in 2015 around the time that his accusations against Pell started to fall apart. David himself was the lying (and seemingly remorseless) child molester.
Let that sink in. The attacks on Pell were started by a lying child molester who downplayed his crimes. This raises the question why he went after Pell for so many years. It also damages the credibility and objectivity of the media, documentaries and victims’ groups that (claim they were) deceived by him for many years to support his slander against Pell while supposedly being unaware of Ridsdale’s crimes.
Why did a lying child molester go after Pell and not the bishops in charge of his abuser uncle? Why did his siblings support a story that couldn’t even be close to reality? Did they sympathize with their uncle? Were they actually upset Pell was purging the archdiocese of pederasts?
Phil Scott and the Southwell Inquiry and Pell’s exoneration
David Ridsdale got the snowball rolling. His false claims aired for years. They were followed by accusations against Pell by Phil Scott. He was Pell’s second accuser and the first to accuse Pell of having committed child abuse himself. He claimed Pell had molested him (and a friend who at that point had been dead for many years but never said to anyone that he had been molested) more than 40 years earlier at a camp, back when Pell was still a seminarian. Scott accused Pell amidst the media frenzy over Ridsdale’s (not yet totally debunked) accusations.
Pell temporarily stepped down in accordance with the rules of the Church in Australia at the time and independent inquiry into the alleged abuse was carried out by Justice Southwell, a respected retired judge and Anglican which ended up clearing Pell.
Scott alleged that Pell had molested him in a tent with other present and while they were walking around with others present. Yet the witnesses had apparently consistently not noticed the abuse in plain sight. Pell was supposed to have been an unusual abuser in that he spent no time grooming before abusing. He just molested the boy in front of others. People who had been at the camp wrote testimonies for the inquiry favourable to Pell. Pell issued a sworn denial.
Scott claimed that he had recognised Pell as his abuser and called his ex-wife about it in 2000 after he had seen Pell being installed as archbishop on TV when he first spoke to G, a woman who served in the Church’s internal abuse reporting system. Problem was that Pell was only made Archbishop of Sydney in 2001. Scott then seems to have suggested that he had meant he had recognized Pell when he was made Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 by having the reference to Sydney removed… but Scott was in prison at the time… was he keeping up with church news then? Did he then call his ex-wife once 4 years later to discuss abuse he had only mentioned once nearly 2 decades ago? Yet, he only pursued it in 2002 after the Ridsdale smears?
Scott Southwell noted her honesty and rejected the suggestion that she had put words in Scott’s mouth. He noted that Scott seemed to have lied because he was unwilling to acknowledge his mistake regarding recognising Pell when he became Archbishop of Sydney. He held a positively adverse view of him as a witness on this issue (though not the rest of his testimony), and noted that his dishonesty on this front had somewhat damaged his credibility, on top on his lesser credibility due to his past.
It turned out that Scott was in fact a career criminal and conman with a history of violence and extortion; bookmaker, drunk driver, drug addict, drug trafficker, and violent criminal, a man who had made money of mistreating others.
This was revealed to the public after the Southwell Inquiry had already dealt with the case. The Inquiry went rather easy on him on this point and others as well. It wasn’t mean to be an adversial process. This might help to explain why Scott was only willing to make his accusations to the Church’s reporting mechanisms rather than the secular authorities.
But in spite of this very gentle treatment and the refusal by Scott’s supporter Bernard Barrett’s from Broken Rites to share the notes of their meeting, Pell was cleared of the accusation. Southwell did not find the complaint was established looking at the evidence (or lack thereof).
Yet, the process was criticized afterwards not having been sufficiently fair to Pell by giving the criminal Scott the kid-glove treatment and allowing a career criminal’s baseless and improbable accusations to not be more thoroughly refuted so that any possible lingering doubts may have been removed.
Over a decade later, Pell critic Milligan would allege that mentioning Scott’s criminal history in the context of his accusation was character assassination (quite ironic in a book that treats gossip as a valid means to judge Pell’s character). It seems unavoidable to acknowledge Scott’s history of exploitation and dishonesty. His accusations had no supporting witnesses. No supporting evidence of any kind. The credibility of his word was the only basis for believing his accusations. When he’s been dishonest at the expense of others in the past, his word against a person with not the slightest criminal record cannot just be taken for granted. Especially when this accuser did not even wish to put his trust in the justice system.
The argument is made that someone like Scott turned to crime precisely because Pell had victimized him. By this logic any criminal can accuse someone with money (or who leads an institution that has money) of abuse many decades ago without any evidence and go from perpetrator to victim entitled to be believed. At least if the person they accuse is a Conservative.
This mild treatment and extreme indulgence of the Church-requested independent inquiry was actually used (many years later) by Pell critics to claim he hadn’t been exonerated, even though the accusation had been dismissed.
Scott and his representative claimed victory cause Southwell did not conclude that he had been proven to be actively lying or motivated by dishonest motives. The fact that the accuser hadn’t been proven to be guilty of dishonesty was taken as vindication. This is not how accusations work. No one has to prove that they are false beyond a reasonable doubt. No one has to prove that their accuser was lying. It’s a complete reversal of the burden of proof.
The fact that the standard of proof was high during the inquiry was also used to suggest that Pell wasn’t fully exonerated, which would logically mean that acquittal in all criminal cases where the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt wouldn’t count as exoneration.
Southwell doesn’t state or suggest that if the standard had been lower he’d have upheld the the accusation against Pell, or even that he considered the accusation credible or probable.
Barrett from Broken Rites even tried to claim that Southwell’s conclusion was closer to the Scottish verdict of not proven. This is a bizarre attempt by Barrett to import a very specific Scottish verdict, rarely used in almost any other jury system or justice system of any kind, in an attempt to make the dismissal of the accusation less of a real exoneration. A simple quick Wikipedia read undermines his assertion however;
“in the present day not proven is typically used by a jury when there is a belief that the defendant is guilty but The Crown has not provided sufficient evidence”
“Not proven is sometimes interpreted… as indicating that the jury or judge is not convinced of the innocence of the accused; in fact, they may be convinced that the accused is guilty, but do not find the evidence sufficient for a conviction.”
Scott’s testimony wasn’t found to be extremely credible. While Southwell said he came of as truthful so did Pell, the difference being that Pell didn’t have valid criticisms made against his credibility while Southwell noted that Scott did have some valid criticisms of his credibility, some of Scott’s story did not hold up and there were no witnesses who had seen the supposedly very public abuse.
It wasn’t just that Scott’s claims weren’t successfully demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, his version of events was simply hard to accept without any corroborating evidence, Southwell said. There was no real reason to doubt Pell’s innocence. He was generally found credible, other people from the camp gave positive character references, there was nothing to support the accusation against him.
Not proven rather than not guilty isn’t the norm in cases where accusers have credibility problems and no supporting evidence but they’re not proven liars and simply give the appearance of being truthful. Southwell casted no doubts on Pell’s credibility or innocence nor did he suggest that there was a reason to find the accusation probable.
With both Pell and Scott coming off as truthful but the former having no credibility issues while the latter did, Pell would win on the balance of probabilities in a civil case. Especially since no witnesses had actually witnessed the abuse in plain sight.
Fishy behind the scenes actions and seeds for the later witch-hunt
Scott claimed he wasn’t interested in money though, only in having it out with Pell man to man. Why he didn’t try to personally meet with, Pell instead of going through an official Church process that normally did result in compensation if the claims were upheld is a total mystery I guess. He also consistently refused to make an official complaint to the police. Neither did he sue Pell in civil court.
Yet the accusation ended up being revived years later to rob Pell of the presumption of innocence he was entitled to. In fact, around 2012/2013 it ended up being revived amidst ideological conflicts and other vague accusations against Pell, even though at that point the accusation referred to things that allegedly happened over 50 years ago before Pell was even a priest.
Even more interestingly, Scott did not actually revive the accusations. He refused to have anything to do with either police or journalists who wanted to speak to him about Pell. He never wanted to revisit it in any way.
It were others who tried to do so on his behalf, they acted as if they spoke on his behalf. Milligan claimed that a Catholic priest known to dislike Pell (for ideological reasons) whom Scott was staying with had said the whole thing had been too painful for Scott. A convenient claim by Milligan not even directly from Scott that makes Scott seem like a shell-shocked victim as the result of non-adversarial inquiry and some attacks from Right-wing media, in spite of him having been able to survive prison and the infamy of a life of crime.
Very convenient and it allowed the accusation serve as a template for other accusations against Pell over a decade after the Southwell Inquiry. Specifically, the notion that Pell wasn’t cleared of molesting boys in plain sight without grooming, supposedly made other such unusual accusations more scary to hear (even though they were made with this dismissed accusation having been in the public record and defended by radical anti-Pell haters for years).
More important however is that witness J, the man whose accusation actually landed Pell in jail, seems to have only accused Pell after having spoken to Bernard Barret from Broken Rites, the man who had had an enigmatic role during and after the Southwell Inquiry. Seems men ended up accusing Pell off having molested them (and a now dead friend) in plain sight decades later after meeting with Barrett.
So, what was Barrett’s role? Well, Scott ironically ended up criticizing him during the inquiry. Not with an overly aggressive tone but with suggestive criticisms.
He claimed Barrett had behaved odd, sort of loud when they had first met, immediately saying he could help Barrett with a terrific victim’s statement that might get him 50.000. Scott had apparently found it odd that Barrett would have immediately supported a statement regarding a case he still knew little about and bragged about how they could get money from the Church.
He also alleged that he thought that Barrett had been the one to leak the accusations which had been made within the Church’s internal reporting system and shared with Barrett from Broken Rites, through an anti-Pell article written under the pseudonym Xavier O’Byrne (and honestly, who else could it have been, G, the women of the Church who victims could speak to, did she have a one-time double agent role?). Barrett refused to fully share his notes regarding his conversations with Scott.
Yet, Barrett seems to have been somewhat important in supporting Scott’s story of how he had ended up accusing Pell. While the claim that he had come forward after seeing Pell installed archbishop fell apart, Scott’s claim that he had discussed the abuse once (then never again) with his now ex-wife during the 1970s and then again during a phone call during an exact month in 2000 was supported by Barrett who showed that date written down in certain notes… in red ink… on a paper mostly filled with black in (he claimed he added the dates in red ink and annotations in green, this wasn’t proven or disproven). This supported Scott’s claim of early complaint that undermined the notion that he might have been motivated by money and may just have been useful in supporting his ex-wife’s conveniently sharp memory regarding the exact months of phone calls from 2 years ago.
Though, strangely enough, Southwell made it seem like he relied more strongly on her challenged testimony. Dubious seeing how she likely knew about but never spoke out against and likely even profited from her (ex)husband’s crimes. She and her husband still met sometimes often because of shared concerns for their children.
Pell’s lawyer Mr. Sher Q.C attacked her credibility including the fact that she supposedly remembered a quick onetime conversation about abuse during the 1970s, the exact year it happened. Southwell however decided to find her conveniently strong memory impressive rather than contrived. She also claimed to remember the month of the call with Scott in 2000 because she was anxious about a new job at the time.
The other supporting testimony for the 2000 date was a long-time friend of Scott, D.
“D” has been a friend of the complainant for over 20 years; they met at an Alcoholics
Anonymous meeting; they meet every few months, perhaps at a meeting, perhaps for dinner or coffee. In June or July 2000, after an A.A. meeting, they went to Williamstown cafe for coffee, where the complainant told him that at a camp years ago George Pell had molested him (he described the act complained of); “D” suggested the complainant should seek counselling from his parish priest.
“D” was able to fix the date of this conversation by the fact that someone else spoke at the A.A. meeting about sexual abuse with a “passion” that was unusual, and also by the fact that on that night a totally unrelated event occurred – another person went to hospital and “didn’t come out alive”.
“D” was somewhat emotional about this aspect, which was a major event for him, and was reluctant to give details, which, of course, I lacked power to prise from him. I acknowledge that this made it difficult for Mr. Sher to test the accuracy of his recollection. However, I regard “D” as an honest witness and I think he is accurate in his fixing of the date of the conversation.
Southwell decided to put his trust in the friend who also conveniently had a sad story that allowed him to remember exactly when Scott came forward about abuse in 2000 even though his friend was secretive about it so that it couldn’t be falsified.
These 2 people close to Scott were important in supporting the 2000 date while Scott and Barrett were put on the defensive.
The judge seemed to suggest that Sher was contradictory in arguing that Barrett’s testimony should be rejected as completely unreliable except in as much as he confirmed that Scott’s story had initially been that he recognised Pell when he became Archbishop.
This specifically assertion on the notes from Barrett describing his initial conversation with Scott however, is consistent with Scott’s initial testimony that he later backtracked from and tried to throw G under the bus over. To find Barrett unreliable (as Southwell did by ruling him unsatisfactory) while acknowledging that his notes confirm that Scott had claimed he recognised Pell when he became archbishop seems completely reasonable. It shows that Scott indeed shared the claim that he had only recognised Pell after he became archbishop. Or at least that that is what Barrett wrote down.
This means that both men happened to say the same thing, that Scott’s initial story was that he identified Pell after he became archbishop in 2001 even though they claimed Scott had discussed the abuse in 2000. Consistent inconsistency.
When someone’s testimony seems unreliable and they appear to have a shady and dishonest role in attacking the accused, this can justify rejecting their testimony while at the same time acknowledging that notes they took confirm that the accuser they’re supporting originally claimed things that were proven to be impossible.
“…; it followed, Mr. Sher submitted, that the complainant must have been referring to the Sydney appointment in 2001; that the complainant did not therefore recognise the respondent in 2000 as he claimed; that “B” must have inserted the date “2 May 2000” much later; and that this severely damaged the complainant’s credit.”
This seems like a logical conclusion. Barrett confirmed that Scott’s story which meant that he could only have recognised Pell in 2001 and therefore the 2000 call with his ex-wife had to have been made up and the red ink date a later insert. This would have meant both Scott and Barrett had been lying to intentionally cover up how part of Scott’s story had been fabricated and that his claim of early complaint and not being motivated by compensation were shaky.
Southwell himself said that: ‘”B” was not a satisfactory witness in the sense that it was difficult to get him to concentrate on merely answering the question put to him. He seemed at times too much at pains to provide possible explanations for terminology appearing in his notes which were not the words of the complainant.’
Not a satisfactory witness is a hard indictment. The fact that he may have put words in Scott’s mouth makes him rather unreliable either way, yet that conveniently describing Scott as having identified Pell after he became Archbishop remains quite the coincidence.
While Southwell didn’t put trust in either of them and noted problems with their testimonies, he did not agree with Sher’s assertion that both had intentionally lied to support the earlier 2000 date and correct the mistake regarding Pell becoming Archbishop of Sydney.
Southwell accepted his ex-wife’s conveniently specific (job-related) memory and his close friends non-falsifiable-sob-story based sharp memory. So, instead he suggested that Scott had just been mistaken when he had initially claimed to have recognised Pell when he was installed as Archbishop and that he had been unwilling to admit that and that that is why he tried to throw G under the bus.
How his memory could have become distorted on this point I have real problem understanding. He decided to suddenly talk about his abuse in 2000, discussed it on the phone with his ex-wife, with a close friend and with Barrett, then in 2002 he decided to finally pursue it and he had developed a false memory that he had recognised Pell when he was installed as Archbishop? Even though recognising your abuser for the first time and as an important public figure, would seem like a very significant even. But in this case such a shocking memory was a false one? One he had developed in about a year? Not false memory regarding events from his childhood.
Scott had later claimed that he had recognised Pell on TV while wearing purple vestments. This was something the cardinal only did for rare occasions and not during the time that Scott alleged to have recognised him. Tapes were provided off his TV appearances from the time. It was revealed/claimed Scott was colour blind but to what extent wasn’t tested or verified.
This vague and convenient explanation wasn’t dealt with further but Southwell accepted that Scott may have seen ‘that in a news item, an old clip might be used; the answer might lie in the fact that after recognising the respondent the complainant took much more notice of media publicity about the respondent and may have seen him in a purple robe on other occasions, leading to confusion as to what he was wearing on the particular occasion.’
Southwell gave the benefit of the doubts to Scott regarding these two key improbable or false claims about how he had recognised Pell, even while he did acknowledge Southwell had lied while attempting to throw G under the bus to hide his mistake. He gave a similar benefit of the doubt to Barrett who had conveniently written down in his notes the same wrong recognition story that Scott had initially shared with G. He simply speculated that when Pell became Archbishop was a mistake and that the notes should have said WAS archbishop. This speculation he said would resolve the problem (of Barrett’s notes conveniently contradicting Scott’s coming forward in 2000 story in exactly the same way as Scott’s initial claims to G that he tried to dishonestly backtrack on). One problem though… PELL WAS TILL ARCHBISHOP WHEN SCOTT SPOKE TO BARRETT! So how could he have said, when Pell WAS Archbishop? WAS in past tense. Unless it actually referred to when Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne but before he became Archbishop of Sydney… but Barrett’s notes don’t reference Melbourne and Scott developing a false memory of recognising Pell when he became Archbishop of Sydney seems even more bizarre if he had previously described recognising Pell specifically before that when Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne.
So, an alternative explanation of what Scott actually told Barrett doesn’t seem to make any sense. Furthermore, did Scott really try to throw G under the bus just because he had made an innocent mistake initially referring to Pell becoming Archbishop of Sydney. Does it really not seem logical to conclude that Scott was lying on this issue for the more sinister reason that the Sydney reference turned out to undermine the chronology of his recognition and coming forward narrative and support Sher’s claim both Scott and Barrett were backtracking and lying with the intent to obscure the fabricated nature of his claims?
Southwell’s unwillingness to conclude that Barrett had intentionally lied about the date to support the backtracking and the trust he decided to give to Scott’s two associates prevented this conclusion.
Specifically, only the ex-wife supported the claim of early complaint before 2000. Neither Barrett or the friend could directly support that. Barrett and the friend seem to have mainly served to indirectly boost the ex-wife’s credibility by supporting the 2000 phone call, which would make the onetime conversation in the 1970s seem slightly less convenient.
But, if a career criminal managed to get his ex-wife (whom he still watches over their kids with) and his close friend to lie about conversations he had with them in 2000, then he did just opportunistically attack Pell for compensation in 2002 and Barrett actively lied to support a false accusation against Pell.
The image we get is that Barrett had used the possibility of easy money without media attention or a difficult legal process to appeal to Scott, that he hoped to damage Pell by leaking the accusations through an anonymous article, that Scott was upset, that Barrett tried to hide his involvement and rejected the non-adversarial process as ‘too adversarial’ because it did not adhere to a ‘believe all victims’ attitude, and yet that he helped to save Scott and by extent his (ex)wife and friend from being proven wilful liars by supporting the alleged phone call in 2000, with Southwell being unwilling to discredit the wives’ questionable testimony and Barrett’s support for it in spite of his evasiveness regarding his alleged role in the whole lead up to the accusation. Though Southwell at least noted problems with Barrett’s note taking and his behaviour as a witness.
Finally, I should add that even Scott seemed to undermine Barrett’s 2000 date in his notes. If Barrett was indeed the one who leaked the story, then why would have have waited around 2 years to do so? In fact, while I could have suspended my disbelief about Scott calling his ex-wife to discuss the abuse by Pell (after recognising him somehow) and discussing it with his AA friend, I cannot believe he’d also visit a militant victims’ group skilled at legal and PR campaigns against the Church, and then still sit on it for nearly 2 more years. The obvious and desperate attempt by Barrett to support the 2000 date only undermines the whole credibility off that.
Saving Scott’s testimony from being proven intentionally fabricated, gave Barrett something to salvage, but Scott who had possibly expected to be given money in spite not existing for it outside the legal process after having found himself being used and pushed in the limelight by Barrett, wanted nothing further to do with the case, nothing that could prove he was still a fraud or perhaps he simply didn’t want to serve as the pawn of anti-Pell ideologues ever again.
To be continued…