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Truth, what is that? Lessons for the media from Pell trial

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher launches Gerard Henderson’s book. Photo: Giovanni Portelli.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said the biased coverage of large sections of the Australian media in the Cardinal Pell case is an enduring lesson to all on the importance of truth in public life, two years after the High Court handed down its landmark verdict, clearing the former Sydney and Melbourne Archbishop of child abuse allegations.

Archbishop Fisher was delivering a word of thanks at a launch on 7 April of the journalist and political commentator Gerard Henderson’s landmark book Cardinal Pell: The Media Pile-On and Collective Guilt, hosted jointly by The Catholic Weekly and The Mustard Seed Bookshop.

Archbishop Fisher said as Catholics prepare to mark the celebration of Easter, it is timely to consider the fundamental injustice that Cardinal Pell suffered, especially the 404 days he wrongly spent in prison, before all seven judges on the High Court ruled in favour of the Cardinal’s case.

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“On Good Friday, we will recall another trial 2000 years ago of the most innocent Man in history and at that trial, He will say, ‘for this I was born, for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the Truth and all who love the truth, listen to my voice’.  And the response He got from the judge was “Veritas? Quid est veritas? Truth, what’s that?”  Archbishop Fisher said.

“The verdict of power disconnected from truth was the verdict of a corrupt or cowardly judge. It wasn’t about ideology as were the equally false verdicts of the ABC and the Fairfax press in the Pell case; Pilate didn’t have that option back then of working for them so he had to settle for working for the Roman Empire”.

“Why does truth matter so much? Well, one reason might be that it is intrinsically good: it’s one of those things like love and beauty that is just good in itself, we don’t need any further reason to pursue it. In exposing the truth about the trial and imprisonment of the innocent Cardinal Pell and the media pile-one that led to the perversion of justice, Gerard Henderson has served truth, something self-evidently valuable, even when it is unpopular, unprofitable, unwelcome in many people’s ears. Telling the truth is still worth doing because it’s true”.

“The verdict of power disconnected from truth was the verdict of a corrupt or cowardly judge. it wasn’t about ideology as were the equally false verdicts of the abc and the fairfax press in the pell case”.


Henderson critiques Pell detractors

In his presentation at the book launch, Mr Henderson critiqued the work of two Australian journalists, David Marr and Louise Milligan who had both written or broadcast what have subsequently proved to be reports on the Cardinal Pell case, the logic and assumptions of which were devastatingly and unanimously refuted by the full bench of the High Court of Australia.

Mr Henderson said it was almost impossible for the Cardinal to receive a fair trial and Judge Peter Kidd, Chief Judge in the Victorian County Court, had warned the jury to take nothing into account on what they have heard about Cardinal Pell.

“On 9 July 2017, David Marr was invited by the then ABC Insiders’ host, Barry Cassidy, to predict the future of Pell. He had just been charged at that stage and I was on the program. David said that Cardinal Pell would be subject to several trials that would last for four or five years. He was subject to one trial and a re-trial that lasted less than a year. He was one of the ABC’s experts on this”, he said.

“Cardinal Pell’s conviction when it happened was discussed on ABC’s The Drum and David Marr told Cardinal Pell’s supporters to accept the verdict. So everyone had to shut-up and he wasn’t allowed to appeal”.

Author and journalist Gerard Henderson. Photo: Giovanni Portelli.

Gerard Henderson said fellow ABC journalist, Louise Milligan should never have been awarded a Walkley Book award for her book, Cardinal and two Quill Awards from the Melbourne Press Club which covered the allegations she raised about Cardinal Pell which were completely discredited by the High Court. “No-one will of course ask that these awards be taken back because no-one wants to properly admit that these awards were ever given. The awards should be handed back because I can’t think of anyone who received an award for Non-Fiction and the book covered allegations which were discredited unanimously by the judges in the highest Court in Australia”, he added.

Archbishop Fisher applauded Mr Henderson for his new book, saying it takes genuine courage to defend the truth.

“In the end, there will be people who refuse to sell Mr Henderson’s book, people who refuse to buy the book, people who refuse to read the book, people who refuse to be persuaded by the book, even people who refuse to acknowledge the existence of the book. Others will be helped by its forensic presentation of the facts and exposure of the underlying anti-Catholicism. But whatever the ratings, you will have served the truth, and served humanity, served our community by doing what you’ve done.”

“In the end, the most important reason to care passionately about the truth is that the truth became incarnate in a man, who we will put on trial, the One who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the One who prayed that the Father consecrate us in the Truth. And so, if for no other reason, we must care passionately about the Truth because this is our faith, He is our God”.

“Congratulations Gerard. Thank you for your service to our God, to our community, to humanity and to truth itself by exposing the reality of the Pell case and the media pile on”.

Copies of Cardinal Pell: The Media Pile-On and Collective Guilt are available for sale in The Mustard Seed Bookshop.


Fr Frank Brennan delivering a presentation at a Catholic Weekly-Mustard Seed Bookshop event on his book “Observations on the Pell Proceedings”

Sydney Institute, Lessons from the Pell Case: Fr Frank Brennan, Monica Doumit and Gerard Henderson 

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