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Cardinal Pell, the Murdoch Press and Coincidence Theory

By James Shanahan

Pell RC

On Friday evening the 19th of February, The Herald-Sun published an article revealing that Victoria Police had been conducting an investigation in to allegations of sexual misconduct by Cardinal George Pell with minors.  The investigation had been ongoing for a year.  In the same article was a statement from the office of Cardinal George Pell provided by that office to be published simultaneously by the Herald-Sun.

The following Friday night, on the stroke of midnight, another Murdoch paper, The Weekend Australian, elaborated on some information mentioned in the Pell Statement. Coincidentally, I had written two articles between these two Fridays with information that linked the two articles from the Murdoch Press. My articles called into question information provided by both the Herald-Sun article and the statement from George Pell.

I was pleasantly surprised at first when the Weekend Australian article backed some of my assertions of the many inaccuracies in Pell’s statement. Of course, it was a complete coincidence but nice for me, just the same. Then I had one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” moments. Why would a fellow Murdoch publication back up criticisms of another Murdoch publication’s article?

This wasn’t the only puzzling incident from the Murdoch publishing empire that week. It had been alleged that the source for Lucie Morris Marr’s (the reporter who published the original ‘leaked’ story) information had been “elements in the Victorian Police”. This was alleged in the statement from George Pell, by myself and others. So far, so good. Nothing unusual there. But then a fellow Herald-Sun reporter, Andrew Bolt, attacks Lucie in the same publication that they are both employed by for doing same. Where was the editor when this was going on; allowing one reporter to attack another reporter from the same paper?

Strange, but I’m not one to read ulterior motives into other people’s behaviour even if it is strange. I especially am not going to do it with journalists who enjoy such high standing within our community.

However, a Greek friend of mine, Con Spiros, is not so generous. He suggested that Andrew accused Lucie of using a police source to allow her to refute the accusation and that this would throw suspicion onto certain survivors of sexual abuse for the leaks by saying she got her information from ‘old fashioned door knocking’. He also questioned whether one or more editors would be party to this.

“You can’t say that, Con. You’ve got no evidence”

“Yeah, I know. But . . . I’m just saying.” he said

Though the odds of going on a random door-knocking expedition in a state of, what, 5 million people? and turning up 5 to 10 survivors alleging that George Pell abused them may be astronomical, I’ll grant you, but it is still a legitimate possibility.  I mean, winning the Lotto is a million to one chance, too, but someone wins it every week.  Right?

“It’s a coincidence,”  I told Con and my other conspiracy nutter friends. They laughed and called me a Coincidence Theorist. One of them even said that Benjamin Disraeli, a former British Prime Minister said that, “There are no coincidences in politics”.  I replied, “Well, what would he know? Besides, this isn’t politics.”  That stumped them! I knew this because their jaws dropped and no words came out. These nutters will not face the fact that our world is chock full of random chance events.

Take, for instance, the fact that the opening line of George’s statement and the opening line in the article written by Chip Le Grand (is that a nom de plume?) in the Weekend Australian are both almost identical. George’s statement starts with, “Cardinal Pell is due to give evidence to the Royal Commission in just over one week.”And Chip’s piece starts with, “Cardinal George Pell will provide testimony to the child abuse royal commission from Rome.”

Random chance. It happens all the time. Con countered that by pointing out that in marketing and propaganda, it is a common tactic to start your pitch with a statement that the target audience will agree with automatically and the fact that Pell is about to give evidence to the Royal Commission is a classic example of that. The whole world knows that George said he is going to give evidence! Yes?

I can conceive of the possibility that George’s statement may have been written in an effort to sorta kinda maybe sway people but I can’t accept that Chip, a journalist, would do the same. Nope, it’s a coincidence, I’m sure. And there certainly couldn’t be any collusion.

Anyway, why would a journalist want to get me to agree with him to start with?

“Easy”, said Con. “If he wants to lead the reader astray, he needs to get the reader to first hold hands with him”. He lost me with the holding hands business, I must admit. Maybe it’s a Greek thing, I don’t know.

“But Chip agrees with me, Con! He said Justice Southwell didn’t find the allegations false”.

“Yeah, yeah, to start with,” he said, “but after reprinting George’s claim to have been exonerated, Chip doesn’t mention that there was no exoneration like you did; that it would have been impossible for Justice Southwell to exonerate George and every lawyer involved in the case should have known that. Know what I’m sayin’?  You caught the bugger red-handed and Chip gives him a pass.”

“Well, people forget things, Con. Even George forgets things”.

Con got all red in the face and started to wave his hands in the air. He didn’t look well. He muttered something about “Bloody coincidence theorists”. I’m not sure but I don’t think he was happy with something I said. “You’re just like George”, he finally sputtered. “You need everybody to tell you everything using one syllable words or you don’t know anything”. Now I really am confused.

“Look, James, Chip remembers some things from the Southwell Inquiry but forgets other things. He remembers that the complainant had problems with alcohol and drugs early in his life but forgets that he straightened himself out against all the odds and that he was described in the press at the time as a successful family man and businessman. This man is a man of character,” he said.

“Chip remembers that a lawyer involved with the Southwell Inquiry suggested that the complainant might have been mistaken but forgets the lawyers name or even, crucially, who he was working for. Was he working for Pell, the Church, who?

“He remembers that the complaints became known to the church when the complainant approached the Broken Rites organisation”.

I said to Con that I hope he is not suggesting that Broken Rites broke the man’s confidence in tattling to the Cathedral or even that Chip is suggesting that. “No, no, I’m not suggesting that”.

“Good”, I said, “because it was in the press at the time that the complainant had gone to Towards Healing so George most likely would have learnt about the complaints from them. The complainant was wanting Towards healing to investigate George but they did nothing. But that wasn’t really Towards Healing’s fault because their brief from the college of bishops didn’t allow them to investigate bishops or their superiors. Hmmm . . . why would the bishops do that?”

“You’re kidding me, right? Don’t look at me like that. Anyway, he claims that Southwell said that the complainant had no corroborating evidence and yet Chip remembers later in his article that a witness called Fitzgerald provided corroboration and that Justice Southwell described Fitzgerald as a “patently honest witness” and accepted his evidence. There’s lots more problems like that in the article.”

“Anybody can get confused, Con. If you like, we can go through Chip’s article line by line and look into what you are saying.”

“No, I don’t have the patience for that bullshit. You’d just call everything a coincidence, anyway”

He was right, of course. I would call everything a coincidence because it is. Simple. Anyone can see that, surely!

I think Coincidence Theory gets a bum rap which is strange because most responsible people adhere to the principles of Coincidence Theory every day. Certainly the Catholic Church does and they, above all people, know what the truth is.

Indeed, Cardinal Pell himself, a prince of this Church, acknowledges that the high number of paedophilic priests and religious in the Diocese of Ballarat was a “disastrous coincidence”. There we have it, all we need to know, straight from the horse’s a … er, mouth.

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