Louise Milligan and George Pell


End pages of this week’s Media Watchdog by G Henderson

LOUISE MILLIGAN’S UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ON HER CARDINAL PELL BOOK
Due to popular demand from avid readers, MWD reprints the eleven questions which Louise Milligan declined to answer concerning her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017). Instead of answering Gerard Henderson’s questions, Ms Milligan sought the protection of her publisher – the formidable Louise Adler. Ms Adler told Hendo that Ms Milligan’s book was a beauty – so there – and no correspondence would be entered into.

On 27 March 2018, Louise Milligan was called as a witness by Cardinal Pell’s defence team in the current committal hearing in the matter of Christopher Reed v George Pell. She was cross-examined for an entire day by Robert Richter QC at the hearing in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court which is presided over by Belinda Wallington, the Supervising Magistrate for Sexual Offences.

And so, it came to pass that Louise Milligan reported the first day of the Cardinal Pell hearing for the ABC TV News Breakfast program on 26 July 2017 – and later on spent an entire day as a witness on the third last day of the hearing on 27 March 2018. How very ABC – since the taxpayer funded public broadcaster denied that Ms Milligan had a potential conflict in being a party to a case which she was reporting on.

In any event, here are eleven questions which were sent to Ms Milligan on 6 June 2017 – they remain unanswered:

At Page 4, you refer to the allegations concerning (then) Archbishop Pell’s alleged sexual assault of a choir boy at St Patrick’s Cathedral sometime between 1996 and 2001 as “George Pell’s ugly secret”. How is this statement consistent with your comments, following the publication of your book, that Cardinal Pell is entitled to the presumption of innocence? Also, what is the justification for writing at Page 227 that some of Pell’s accusers “will” be cross-examined by the Cardinal’s Queen’s counsel? – since he has not been charged.
In view of the serious allegations in Cardinal – and to the fact that you acknowledged on the ABC TV News Breakfast program on 17 May 2017 that your book is written “from of the complainants’ point of view”– what is your policy about anonymous sources?
For example, Cardinal contains references to “one senior member of a religious order” (Pg. 20), “another Royal Commission source” (Pg. 41), “one of the most senior priests on the Curia of the Melbourne Archdiocese at the time” (Pg. 51), “one Church official” (Pg. 88), “officials in the church” (Pg. 281), “a friend…who is a mother in the neighbourhood” (Pg. 290), “someone who works around the Royal Commission” (Pg. 297), “the father-in-law of an ABC journalist” (Pg. 313), “people who knew [George Pell] in his Ballarat days” (Pg. 329) – and more besides – plus the occasional “many”. The allegations at Pages 88 and 281 – which go to George Pell’s character – are most damaging. But they are unsourced.

In view of the serious allegations in your book, do you believe that it is professional to allow anonymous individuals – none of whom claim to be victims – a chance to condemn George Pell in such a way that a reader has no chance of judging their credibility or motives?

What is your position on memory? At Page 101 – when rationalising an inaccurate description of George Pell by one of his accusers – you write: “Memory does strange things when it comes to visual descriptions of people”. Yet, elsewhere in Cardinal, you accept as accurate the recollections of individuals who have seen George Pell on television in recent times and claim that this is the person they came across 30 to 40 years previously.
What is your position on the use of direct quotation marks? At Page 47, you place in direct quotes the recollection of a critic of Cardinal Pell who relates – word for word – a conversation which Pell had with her cousin. This despite the fact that (i) the alleged conversation took place over two decades ago, (ii) the woman concedes to being in the room next door to where the conversation took place and (iii) Pell was (allegedly) determined that the person could not hear what he said to her cousin. This would be uncharacteristic behaviour – in view of the fact that you maintain Pell has a “steel-trap mind” and would be unlikely to speak so loudly that he could be heard between rooms while (allegedly) attempting to have a secret conversation.
Likewise, in Chapter 6 – on the basis of hearsay upon hearsay – how do you construct the precise words that (then) Fr Pell used some three decades ago? Is this professional journalism?

What is your attitude to time? At Pages 129-130 you write that Cardinal Pell was fit enough to turn up at an event in Ballarat “just before he gave video link evidence” from Rome to the Royal Commission on account of not being medically fit to travel to Australia. Cardinal Pell was in Ballarat in March 2015 and he was due to give evidence to the Royal Commission in December 2015 – nine months later.
This is an important point – since you imply that George Pell suddenly developed a heart condition which prevented him from flying from Rome to Australia for hearings of the Royal Commission. So, do you believe it accurate to state that March 2015 is “just before” December 2015 – and insufficient time for a 73 year old man, who already had experienced two heart attacks, to suffer a further deterioration in health?

What is your evidence that the Catholic Church could afford to splash around $20,000 a day on Allan Myers QC as legal counsel before the Royal Commission for Cardinal Pell? (Pg. 131). Were you told this by the Catholic Church and/or Mr Myers? Or did you just make this up?
In view of your sustained criticism of the (then) Bishop Pell’s handling of Fr Peter Searson in Melbourne when he (Pell) was an auxiliary bishop – why did you fail to mention that, when he became Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell sacked Searson and refused to abide by a Vatican decision that he be re-instated? (Pg. 260). Was this a deliberate omission or did you forget this fact – which was not challenged before the Royal Commission?
In dealing with the decision of former Judge Alan Southwell QC’s finding that Phillip Scott’s complaint – with respect to an alleged assault in 1961 – against (then) Archbishop Pell was not upheld, you write: So, in the end, the character assassination of Scott was successful – it achieved its aim – to keep Pell as Archbishop of Sydney. (Page 103)
The clear imputation is that Judge Southwell’s decision was affected by the (alleged) character assassination of Mr Scott which occurred outside the hearing. What evidence do you have that there was any causal relationship between the alleged character assassination of Mr Scott in the media – and Judge Southwell’s decision? Do you believe that Judge Southwell would have been so unprofessional as to allow media reports to influence his finding? If so, what is your evidence for this assertion?

On Page 19 you write that George Pell “infamously shared the [Ballarat East] presbytery with [Gerald] Ridsdale for a year.” At Page 142 you (incorrectly) state that Gerald Ridsdale shared a presbytery for a year with Paul Bongiorno in Ballarat East. It was, in fact, Warrnambool where Ridsdale and Bongiorno shared accommodation – as the evidence before the Royal Commission makes clear. Why is (then) Fr Pell’s accommodation with Ridsdale “infamous” – but not (then) Fr. Bongiorno’s accommodation with Ridsdale?
On Page 15 you write that “one seminarian in Pell’s year seems to remember Pell and [Anthony Salvatore] Bongiorno going on holiday together one summer”. (Emphasis added). Do you maintain that what an anonymous source “seems to remember” warrants quoting in what is presented as a serious book of contemporary history?
Do you believe that such words as “if” and “perhaps” are warranted in what is presented as a professional work by one of the ABC’s leading investigative reporters?


While Louise Milligan declined to answer Gerard Henderson’s eleven questions – she was all too willing to enjoy soft interviews by her ABC colleagues on ABC programs. Like Ms Milligan’s appearance on the ABC Radio 774’s The Conversation Hour program in Melbourne where she was interviewed by ABC star Jon Faine and former Democrats’ senator Lyn Allison on 15 May 2017. Here is a photo of that occasion, which coincided with Law Week in Victoria.

That’s Louise Milligan in the middle, Magistrate Belinda Wallington on the left and Lyn Allison on the right. The photo was taken outside the ABC’s Southbank studio in Melbourne.


Until next time.

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