Hope of serendipity

It has been 10 weeks since I started a work from home regime, a by-product of the virus that is wreaking havoc across the globe now. As I write, Brazil has caught up with America to be an epicenter of this dreadful pandemic.

One of the good things to have come out of the current tragedy, is that somehow, we have connected more with a few people. I have connected more with a neighbour, who only moved in because the pandemic put paid to the previous neighbour’s plan to sell the house and this new neighbour became their tenant. We have also connected with a young Malaysian family a few houses down the street. We have exchanged foods in recent weeks and it has been kind of fun. Most of all. we have connected more with family back in Malaysia.

Last Saturday, we took another Zoom meeting with the family. It was to pray for Sim. It was really good to have come together to pray for her, but it also pained me. To take in how much she has deteriorated since we met her in person end of last year, was painfully difficult. She is still up and about and very engaging in media like WhatsApp and Facebook but she now has difficulty breathing and sleeping has become a challenge. Doctors have advised another course of chemotherapy, which would start next week. The Lord knows how much I hope it would work this time.

I said to Tress last night, that I am so very grateful we got to spend some time with her and Daniel in November last year. We were only there for a few days but every moment we spent together meant our engagement with their lives was more than it would have been otherwise. This pandemic has meant we cannot travel as easily as we did then, and I really would have jumped on a plane first chance I get, to see her had we not been so restricted. Sarcoma sounds terrible but apparently, the prognosis may allow us to yet go and see her again. Who knows, our Lord who heals, may give the doctors really good knowledge when administering the chemo, and we may yet get to see her many more times.


Henderson on the Royal Commission (Responses to Child Sexual Abuse) and Pell

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recently released, unredacted, previously withheld sections of its report that touched on what George Pell knew. I waited for Gerard Henderson to respond to this, and he finally did in his usual Friday column in The Australian.

I am taking the liberty to reproduce his piece in full here, because it will always be necesary to rebut certain sections of the community who will persistently and unfairly tar Pell and we always need someone like Henderson to articulate why this is wrong.


The ignorance of some journalists never seems to surprise. Take, for example, the release last week of the non-redacted report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse covering its case studies in the Catholic diocese of Ballarat and archdiocese of Melbourne.

Sections of both reports had been delayed pending the result of the outcome of the charges laid against Cardinal George Pell for historical child sexual abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997. On April 7, in a unanimous decision, the High Court quashed Pell’s conviction.

Many of Pell’s media critics, who were disappointed with his acquittal, looked forward to the release of the royal commission’s findings, which they expected to be hostile to Pell. They were not disappointed. Nor should they have expected to be, in view of the hostile reception Pell faced during his appearances before the royal commission comprising close to 20 hours — especially from counsel assisting Gail Furness SC.

Royal commissions make findings, not judgments. And their burden of proof is far lower than guilt beyond reasonable doubt. It’s closer to the balance of probabilities that prevails in civil cases.

In 1991, well before he became a judge and a royal commissioner, Peter McClellan wrote an article in the Current Issues in Criminal Justice journal in which he stated: “In recent years there has been an increasing trend in government to invoke royal commissions of inquiry to investigate particular problems.”

McClellan continued: “The frequency of such inquiries, and the sensational reporting which they have attracted, has tended to create a belief in some people that this is an appropriate method of handling any matter of public controversy. This is a view expressed by the press.” In 1991, McClellan held the view that “persons should only be convicted after due process in the relevant court”.

It’s a pity that, last week, so many members of the contemporary media dismissed McClellan’s warnings of three decades ago.

Anyone unfamiliar with the case would probably have assumed that Pell was primarily responsible for most of the historical cases of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. And that, if Pell had done his duty, the notorious Catholic pedophiles John Day (1904-78), Gerald Ridsdale and Edward Dowlan would have been arrested and convicted early into their offending. As a result, many of their victims would have been saved.

The fact is that Day’s sexual ­offending against children was known by Victoria Police in the early 1970s — but it did nothing. Born in 1941, Pell was a junior priest at the time.

The story of Denis Ryan, who was forced out of Victoria Police for investigating Day, is told in the book that he co-wrote with Peter Hoysted titled Unholy Trinity (Allen & Unwin, 2013).

Evidence before the royal commission indicates that Victoria Police was aware of Ridsdale’s criminality around 1975-76. Again, it did nothing. The royal commission found that in 1977 and in 1982, Pell — who was one of a number of consultors to bishop Ronald Mulkearns — was advised that Ridsdale was a pedophile.

There is no written or oral evidence to support this conclusion. In fact, what evidence there is indicates that Pell and his fellow consultors were not advised that Ridsdale was being moved from parish to parish because of pederasty. However, some of those present recall that Mulkearns referred to Ridsdale’s homosexuality, which would have been regarded as scandalous at the time.

Mulkearns was a dictatorial bishop (even for his day) who was secretive and who destroyed documents. The royal commission found that he advised Pell and others of Ridsdale’s crimes. Yet the same royal commission found that the bishop hid this information from many others, including cardinal Edward Clancy.

And then there’s the case of Timothy Green, who told the royal commission that in 1974 he advised Pell that Dowlan was ­assaulting boys. Pell does not recall this conversation, nor does the surviving witness. Moreover, Green says the whole exchange took place when he had his back to Pell. The royal commission did not believe Pell.

Journalist Paul Bongiorno was a Catholic priest in the Ballarat diocese in the early 1970s. One of Ridsdale’s victims, BPL, told the royal commission that he had informed Bongiorno about Ridsdale. Bongiorno advised in a statement that he had no recollection of any such conversation. The royal commission found that it could not resolve the differing ­accounts of PBL and Bongiorno. The latter was not called to give evidence, nor was PBL. The royal commission did not disbelieve Bongiorno.

The fact is that Pell was never in charge of a diocese or arch­diocese until he was appointed to Melbourne in 1996.

The royal commission downplays the fact Pell, when in a position of authority, was the first leader in the Catholic Church to establish a procedure to tackle clerical pedophilia.

His predecessor, archbishop Frank Little, had covered up the crimes of his clergy. Pell took action some six years before American newspaper The Boston Globe, in its Spotlight series, revealed clerical child abuse in the Boston archdiocese.

Nor did the royal commission give due consideration to the fact, soon after being appointed archbishop, Pell sacked two ­offending priests, Peter Searson and Wilfred Baker — the former, despite the Vatican’s instructions to the ­contrary.

Such facts are overlooked or downplayed by the royal commission. Meanwhile Pell is effectively condemned for his explanations, which the royal commission found to be inconceivable, implausible, untenable and so on. These are opinions.

In short, he has been effectively damned by the royal commission for (allegedly) protecting pedophilia in the face of McClellan’s 1991 warning that a person should be convicted only after due process in a relevant court. Pell ­received no such justice.

Gerard Henderson is executive director of the Sydney Institute. His Media Watch Dog blog can be found at www.theaustralian.com.au.

Nothing to see

The weather over the weekend was really nice – sunny, no wind, practically balmy and nary a cloud to be seen.

We have also, at what feels like a really long last, been allowed more activities as restrictions of various kinds eased. I had wanted to take a drive to a beach just to take in the views etc., but Tress wasn’t keen so we ended up just going to the local shops and taking walks in nearby parklands.

Other than doing more cooks yesterday arvo, we didn’t do much else. I guess once you’re flattened by circumstances around you, it takes a little while to be lifted again.

Ripples Battering

Autumn ends in about 3 weeks. It felt however, like winter is already here. It rained again on Saturday, and it was cold too. Tress had a dentist appointment in the morning and when she left, I gave the little guy a bath. I tried to keep the water warm right through but the medicated shampoo we give him needed to be on him for at least 15 minute. The poor little guy was shivering at times and I patted, scratched, and cuddled him. He’s such a sweet dog.

Later in the arvo we picked up some lunch from somewhere in Knox, shared some of it with a new neighbour whom we met a couple of weeks ago and discovered were Malaysians, and then just pottered around. It’s that sort of lazy, gloomy, wet and cold day that just steals all manner of life from you. I haven’t felt so lousy on a Saturday for a very long time now. I ended up reading some material for the home group lead I was tasked with for the next time we meet. I don’t feel like it at all, but what do you do when you’re in a group and you have to make some form of contribution, and not just receive all the time.

Sunday was Mother’s Day so I cooked Tress a brekky. I sent out some messages on some of the chat groups I’m in, and then as we have our second coffee, we watched the St Alf online service. Peter spoke about Jesus being tempted by the devil. He ended his talk with a little exchange with Mike Bird, a respected theologian. It was about how Jesus divinity did not stop his being tempted. Heb 4 was cited. I guess it was a touch timely, as although I’m not in a space where being tempted is an issue, the sense of being tired, of being edgy is, I tell myself, a very human experience. Jesus surely felt that way too, when he was on earth as a human. I guess that provided some solace.

We spent the rest of the arvo doing our usual things. We picked up lunch from Doncaster somewhere, did some shopping and later in the day I cooked some of the week’s lunches.

I have a couple of meetings lined up today – meetings I do not feel like calling in for. I’m feeling the proverbial Gump tiredness but going home isn’t going to be the remedy I’m looking for. Not while all around me, and I, are being ravaged by ripples of the Wuhan Virus.


It was cold and (very) wet on the second half of last week. It made the enforced home stay even more grim. We made it through however, and Week 7 of working from home has started to make me feel really flat.

To stay sane and anchored, Tress and I had a lovely home cooked meal on Friday night. Beautifully steamed salmon fillets bathed in a Nyonya sauce,  warmed us well. On Saturday, after our usual weekend breakfast, we did some cleaning. We normally have proper coffee (from the espresso machine) on weekend mornings, together with Tress’ wonderful poached eggs on avocado on toasts. It meant we both had a routine to stick with – a sense of structure in a world that has otherwise lost many useful boundaries – as well as having a good breakfast.

After brekky Tress vacuumed the house and cleaned the toilets. I cleaned a few kitchen drawers, and the fridge. It was good to then spend the rest of the weekend in a clean house and every time we opened the fridge, it felt good too, to see the clean shelves and racks.

The northern states have started to ease up restrictions – people are swarming beaches and parks again. Last night, we went to a local shopping center to pick up a pair of home slippers for me and the shops were really busy. It felt like people are getting restless and maybe also a bit more positive and less fearful.

St Alf’s online is starting to feel more normal too, which isn’t great. Attending the services in track pants, coffee in hand, and wandering in and out of the kitchen or toilet, didn’t feel right but the usual boundaries have been removed and the result is a dispersed, diluted and unfocused service. Thankfully, my continuing note taking habits allowed me to retain parts of Mark Simon’s talk better than if I abandoned  that practice too. A large chunk of the text was on Jesus’ genealogy and I picked up numerous tips on how to read those Hebrew names in greater style, from Tim Dehn the reader. He’s always great value in delivering high performing skills in this space.

I start Week 8 of working from home, with annoying sniffles. I guess that is a good thing about having to stay at home. My sniffles would have annoyed more than just Tress and I, had I been on a train or in the office.