Australians concerned about freedom of religion in this country would be well advised to look beyond the present and likely future debate over same-sex marriage.
Already, what was until recently the traditional view, that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, is being presented as offensive at best and discriminatory at worst by some who advocate what they term marriage equality.
It is not only many believers who hold the traditional view about marriage. However, it is possible that the Catholic Church and some other Christian denominations, plus adherents of Hinduism and Islam, will be targeted for their attitudes on this issue by government tribunals and the like in the future. The first instance is already manifesting itself in Tasmania with respect to the Catholic Church.
Shoulder to shoulder with Australia's worst paedophile priest: George Pell accompanies his housemate who assaulted 65 children to court in chilling footage taken 25 years before the cardinal's own conviction
Politicians and other powerful people defending convicted paedophile George Pell are a "third layer of power" survivors of child sex abuse have to contend with, says one expert.
Within hours of the Victoria Court of Appeal upholding Pell's conviction 2-1, News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt said he was "appalled" by the decision, and did not accept the findings of the court.
It has echoes of the powerful roll call of people who came out in defence of Pell after the suppression order on his conviction was lifted, which included Bolt, his News Corp colleague Miranda Devine, and former Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard. The latter wrote a character references for Pell declaring that "none of these matters alter my opinion of the cardinal."
Cardinal George Pell outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last year. Picture: Getty Images Cardinal George Pell outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last year. Picture: Getty Images SAMANTHA HUTCHINSON The Australian12:42PM January 8, 2018 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on email Share more... One of the men who had accused Cardinal George Pell of sex offences has died, bringing into question whether some of the charges against Australia’s most senior Catholic can be heard in court.
Damian Dignan, who accused Cardinal George Pell of historic sex offences, died in Victoria on Saturday after a long illness.
The allegations of Mr Dignan prompted Victoria Police to reveal Cardinal Pell was under investigation by Taskforce Sano, investigating claims of sex abuse within Victorian churches.
Crown prosecutors pursuing a case against Cardinal Pell could consider changing the structure of their case and the way charges are grouped following Mr Dignan’s death, according to a top Victorian barrister.
“It’s not an unreasonable quote to say that prosecutors could have a more difficult task now, yes,” former chief Victorian magistrate and crown prosecutor Nicholas Papas told The Australian.
“Normally it requires that the person who has given evidence to be there, and so normally it would be the case that without them there, the prosecution can’t proceed ... but you can’t be absolutely sure.”
Mr Papas said that there were some provisions that allowed for sworn statements and other evidence from accusers or witnesses who have died, to be submitted in court, particularly if they had given evidence under oath or to a commission in the past.
“It’s not unusual for witnesses to die and there are provisions in various bits of legislation that allow for statements to be tendered,” Mr Papas said.
Damian Dignan Damian Dignan “If they’ve given evidence at a commission or they’ve previously submitted sworn evidence, that might leave open an opportunity for the prosecution to rely on those statements, but you would normally say that (having an accuser pass away) is the end of a prosecution.
“You’d normally expect those who are accused to be entitled to test the statements of the people who are accusing them.”
Victoria Police, who have led the investigation that proceeded to the prosecution, declined to respond to questions on Sunday evening on whether the case could be impacted by the death of Mr Dignan.
Lawyer Ingrid Irwin, who represented Mr Dignan along with another sexual abuse survivor Lyndon Monument, said Mr Dignan left a legacy of inspiring other survivors to come forward to hold the church and their abusers to account.
“He was so brave to have come forward,” she told The Australian.
“He was a lovely man, he was very humble.’’
She expressed regret that his early death meant he would not be able to witness the eventual outcome of court proceedings against Cardinal Pell.
“It’s just a really crappy outcome for him to have gone without being able to witness any tangible change. We can still see resistance from the church rather than any demonstration of responsibility or acceptance,” she said.
Mr Dignan also shared his allegations in ABC journalist Louise Milligan’s book, Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell.
Ms Milligan tweeted: “Rest in peace, Damian Dignan.”
Cardinal Pell’s representatives did not return calls from The Australian.
For legal reasons reader comments on this article have been closed.
An alibi and a series of explanations offered by Monsignor Charles Portelli in the explosive child sex abuse case which has seen Australian Cardinal George Pell incarcerated in protective custody and serving a minimum of three years and eight months of his six-year sentence before becoming eligible for parole, did not stand up to scrutiny and collapsed in court this week.
Monsignor Charles Portelli, a Maltese-born immigrant to Australia, not a descendant of immigrants, has been described as being like Cardinal George Pell’s ‘bodyguard’.
George Pell's lawyer has described his crimes as "no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case", but a prosecutor says they were brazen, forceful and humiliating acts, at a court hearing to consider the cardinal's sentence.
In submissions to Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd during a plea hearing, Pell's barrister Robert Richter QC said the offences were "no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not volunteering or actively participating".
The former prime minister John Howard has described Cardinal George Pell as “a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character” and says that his conviction on child sexual abuse charges doesn’t “alter my opinion of the Cardinal” in a character reference.
Howard’s reference was published in full in the Herald Sun shortly after another former prime minister, Tony Abbott, described the George Pell verdict as “devastating … for the friends of Cardinal Pell”.
Robert Richter has apologised for his “terrible choice of phrase” in describing George Pell’s sexual abuse of a 13-year-old choirboy as “vanilla sexual penetration”.
The queen’s counsel has been widely criticised for the remark, which came during a plea hearing for the cardinal who is now behind bars awaiting sentence for orally raping the boy, and molesting him and another 13-year-old after a Sunday mass in 1996.
MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian state prosecutor has sent letters threatening to charge media organizations and dozens of journalists with breaching a gag order that banned reporting of Cardinal George Pell’s convictions on charges of sexually molesting two choirboys, lawyers said Thursday.
Reporting in any format accessible from Australia of details of the former Vatican economy chief’s convictions in a Melbourne court in December was banned by a judge’s suppression order that was only lifted this week.