Pell’s Toll

I don’t want to spend a lot of time delving into the intricacies and contradictions of this topic, but I do have a few thoughts I want to express about Cardinal George Pell, his child sex abuse conviction, and the influence he’s had on Australian political direction. Until his downfall, Pell embodied that dangerous mix of religion and “rightwing conservative” politics.

It has now been revealed in Australia, that the nation’s highest ranking Catholic was found guilty in December 2018, of sex offenses against children. The verdict had been suppressed here until two or three days ago, even though it was revealed elsewhere in the world.

I remember local newspapers expressing a grievance for being prevented from reporting about a prominent Australian’s conviction of serious offences. They were prevented by a court order from reporting on the case and its outcome.

Now the news is out.

Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of engaging in forcible sexual acts against two choir boys after mass in the 1990s. Pell is one of the Pope’s most senior men. I recall something about him being the third most important person in the Roman Catholic Church.

Of the two victims, only one took this case to court, the other had died of a drug overdose many years ago. His family now say they finally understand why their son had such a troubled life, spiralling into a fatal relationship with drugs; although throughout his life he had always denied he’d experienced any sexual abuse.

The case against Pell therefore relied on the testimony of one man who gave evidence on behalf of himself and his childhood friend. While not intending to defend Pell or discount the validity of the guilty conviction, I find myself troubled a little by that. How much actual evidence was there apart from that one person’s testimony? I assume there was a lot more than that single thing, but I’ve come across nothing yet in the news reports I’ve seen.

My unease is exacerbated by the many cases I’ve read and heard about recently, where there have been clear miscarriages of justice and the innocent have been given long prison sentences on very flimsy evidence, or have had their lives ruined by false claims against them that they were never allowed to challenge in court. For various reasons the courts, and the media, do get things wrong, particularly when evidence is sparse and circumstantial.

On the other side of the equation, if Pell is innocent, it astounds me that his defence team tried to minimise the sentence he’d be awarded, by trying to underplay the seriousness of the crimes of  which he’d been found guilty. Describing the crime as a “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating”, didn’t seem to be the tactic of a genuinely innocent man.
In the many cases of wrongful conviction that I referred to earlier, there was an ongoing insistence of innocence, with no desperate backing down, in the hope of getting leniency in sentencing.

One of the complicating factors of this case is that Pell was a senior member of an organisation with a woeful record of sexual abuse against minors committed by its leaders. Equally woeful is the response taken when the abuse has been exposed. The response primarily sought to protect the RC Church and its guilty clergy rather than bring about justice for those who had been abused.

Cover-up was the chosen course. And that ongoing history places some guilt upon ALL of those in leadership who enabled it. Whether they personally abused a child or not, if they actively played a part in that cover-up they should share the guilt.
Pell himself gained a reputation for making things harder for those who sought some kind of recognition and recourse from the church. Is Pell a good man, innocent of the sex crime but reaping what his church had sown? Some are suggesting that’s the case.

After the revelation of the guilty verdict, some of the more rightwing commentators of the local Murdoch press have spoken out against the court’s decision, claiming that Pell is a scapegoat. Additionally some of the more rightwing Government ministers have expressed similar views. And two former prime Ministers have expressed their support for Pell. John Howard (PM from 1996 to 2007) wrote a glowing character reference for Pell after the conviction and before sentencing, describing him as  “a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character“. (my emphasis – onesimus)

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Pell continues to maintain support from those people. He has been a strong voice of right-wing conservatism, and his influence on the political paths of a few domineering members of Australia’s current government is evident, in particular the climate change deniers who have crippled Government climate and energy policy since they came into power in 2013.

Some time ago, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (a Pell supporter) gave a speech decrying those who sought action to address climate change. His speech was a barely disguised repetition of one previously given by Pell. (see below)*

Now that Pell’s conviction has been made known, it will be interesting to see whether his political influence, enacted by his polictial acolytes, will gradually be undermined.

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*

Pell said some of the “hysteric and extreme claims about global warming” were “a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear” of the “immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature”.

“In the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods,” Pell said. “Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

This week, Tony Abbott made a curiously similar speech.

Addressing the climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, Abbott returned to his own scepticism about whether climate change is occurring to worrying degrees. He adopted his private confessor’s argument and his style.

“Environmentalism has managed to combine a post-socialist instinct for big government with a post-Christian nostalgia for making sacrifices in a good cause,” Abbott said.

“Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods. We’re more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect.”

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2017/10/14/abbott-looks-pell-energy-policy/15078996005349

Also of interest, a dissenting right wing commentator’s view.

Broadcaster Ray Hadley criticises Howard and Abbott for supporting Pell.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/28/commentators-doubting-pell-verdict-sends-damaging-message-to-survivors

 

 

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Climate Change: Fact and Faith

At a time when the Australian Governmentt (led by a Pentecostal “Christian” Prime Minister”) is rejecting the findings of a UN Climate report, insisting on a continued reliance on coal (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/world-leaders-have-moral-obligation-to-act-after-un-climate-report),
I thought it worthwhile to revisit the blog post below.

Following the commentary on secular news sites, I’ve seen how “Christian” antipathy towards the issue of climate change has itself increased antipathy towards belief in God.

Onesimus Files

An EXCELLENT interview – primarily on the issue of climate change, but also revealing the reality of political influence shaping the beliefs of Christians, as well as the motivation behind those influential political ideologies.

Caring about climate is entirely consistent with who we are as Christians, but over the last several decades we have increasingly begun to confound our politics with our faith to the point where instead of our faith dictating our attitudes on political and social issues we are instead allowing our political party to dictate our attitude on issues that are clearly consistent with who we are.

[Katharine Hayhoe]

We are being told things by people who don’t like the solutions to climate change and have decided that its a lot better and a lot smarter to deny the reality of the problem than to acknowledge it exists but say you don’t want to do anything about…

View original post 3 more words

Backyard Birds

After moving into my house more than 12 years ago I’ve been keeping a list of the different birds I’ve seen either in our garden or from our garden. It’s been several months since I’ve been able to add a new one to the list: until Sunday morning.

rainbow lorikeetx2.jpgOn Sunday I was walking around outside and heard an unfamiliar bird chattering away. In a neighbour’s tree I saw a once familiar sight – a pair of rainbow lorikeets.

They were a frequent visitor around my previous home in Sydney. They would sit on the window sill, or on the balcony table, and were “tame” enough to be handfed. However, they’re not supposed to be native to more inland areas like the town where I now live.

According to the two bird field guides I own, their habitat should be closer to the coast. However, changing climate seems to be having its effect on the movement of wild life, and the range of some birds (rainbow lorikeets included) is expanding.

rainbow lorikeet

Both photos were taken from my back garden.

Naomi Klein’s Message to the Media

Please don’t overlook Klein’s article from The Intercept (“Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now is the Time to Talk About Climate Change” ) accessible via a link at the bottom of the page.

The World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday announced that Hurricane Harvey’s devastation is linked to climate change. All past U.S. rainfall records have been shattered, and the devastating storm is expected to bring even more rainfall to Louisiana and Texas in the coming days. And yet, the corporate networks have avoided linking the record-breaking storm to climate change. We examine storm coverage with Naomi Klein, best-selling author of several books, including “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

Click this link to access video:

Naomi Klein’s Message to the Media

…in the midst of a storm that they’re saying, over and over and over again, is unprecedented. I mean, you turn on any coverage, and you hear that word over and over again, but what you don’t hear, or you hear very, very rarely, is an explanation for why the word “unprecedented,” “record-breaking”—why these words have become, you know, meteorological clichés. We hear them all the time, because we’re breaking heat records year after year. We’re seeing record-breaking wildfires, record-breaking droughts, record-breaking storms, because the baseline is higher

More here:
https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2017/8/30

Naomi Klein’s article of The Intercept is here:
https://theintercept.com/2017/08/28/harvey-didnt-come-out-of-the-blue-now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-climate-change/

Unless it changes, capitalism will starve humanity by 2050

I’m posting the reference to this article because it touches on issues I’ve addressed recently in other posts.
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Unless it changes, capitalism will starve humanity by 2050
[Forbes]
By Drew Hansen
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climate changeProfessors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.
“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote. (my emphasis – Tim)

More from the article:

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.
Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years.
Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia.
Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20%.
The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.

see complete article here: http://news.yahoo.com/unless-it-changes–capitalism-will-starve-humanity-by-2050-014619431.html

Man sees what he chooses to see.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe has noted: “We are being told things by people who don’t like the solutions to climate change and have decided that it’s a lot better and a lot smarter to deny the reality of the problem than to acknowledge it exists but say you don’t want to do anything about it.”

Naomi Klein has pointed out something similar, that acceptance of climate change realities would demand actions that some find politically unpalatable – so they choose to reject evidence pointing to the reality of climate change.
Rather than accept the findings of the majority of climate scientists, they prefer to hunt out a few scientists (often not involved in climate science) who deny it.
http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s4104925.htm

In other words, their stance is determined by what they PREFER to believe rather than by the validity of evidence.

I was talking to Gloria about this last night, and she very astutely pointed out that it’s the same situation when it comes to belief in God.
People choose to deny God, not because of lack of evidence, but because they don’t like the inevitable consequences of recognising Him. An acceptance of God requires a response; a consideration that He might require changes that will take us from the path we want to follow.

Some prefer to blind their eyes and block their ears than to see or hear a truth that requires a short-term price to be paid to gain a long term benefit.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

In recent weeks I’ve become increasingly interested in political attitudes, but not because I have any hope in political solutions. My interest is in the way that clear political injustices are increasingly, (and sometimes unknowingly) supported by professing Christians, who have been seduced into endorsing ideologies that in various ways can be inconsistent with the gospel of the Kingdom.

Firstly there are policies that favour the ultra-rich over the poor.

In an earlier post I gave links to information about the changes in taxation rates that Ronald Regan introduced in the 1980s that reduced Tax on the richest by around two thirds. The resulting shortfall in revenue was recouped through cutting welfare expenditure.

Unsurprisingly, and not coincidentally, those massive tax and welfare cuts were followed by a skyrocketing rate of homeless rate within the USA.

Regan’s practices were echoed after the 2008 economic crash. The financial catastrophe created by unethical and immoral banking practices led the US and other governments around the world to pay 100s of billions of dollars to bail out the offending banks, while the victims of the bank’s immoral practices continued to be made homeless through foreclosures.

[One only has to google “home foreclosures” to see how the heartbreak of many families is still being exploited as a profit-making exercise by opportunistic business people].

Ultimately THAT is the kind of political practice that many Christians are endorsing when they offer support to the right wing political parties they seem to favour.

A second example is the incredible support given to gun ownership by many American Christians. That’s something else I’ve recently addressed with a link to a video interview with a minister whose ministry lost support when he spoke out against the American love affair with guns.

One only has to see some of the gun-supporting arguments raised by Christians to see how quickly irrationality can strike in relation to this issue.

A third concern is the overwhelming denial of Climate change within the political ideology supported by so many Christians. It’s a denial that Christians have often echoed without giving the matter much thought for themselves.
I’ve read remarks from a few people recently who point out that the denial doesn’t come from an assessment of the available evidence; it comes from an unwillingness to accept the essential political changes that will be required to address the implications of climate change.

As Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe has said: “We are being told things by people who don’t like the solutions to climate change and have decided that it’s a lot better and a lot smarter to deny the reality of the problem than to acknowledge it exists but say you don’t want to do anything about it.”

Again I’ve posted a video interview with Hayhoe in a previous post.

I’m concerned that these things (and similar issues) undermine the credibility of Christians and  the gospel they may try to promote. Some of the policies associated with these issues directly contravene central aspects of the gospel: exploitation of the vulnerable, trusting in violence and denial of the truth when the truth becomes costly.

When I’ve considered all of these things, I’ve come to a conclusion that in summary illustrates a choice between two paths – a choice that at heart is related to a warning Jesus gave; something about the impossibility of serving two masters.