Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Pell Conviction in Light of Frédéric Martel's Exposé of the Gay "Parish" Inside the Vatican: Twisted Connection of Catholic Officials to Gay Community

In commenting on Cardinal Pell's conviction and sentence, Michael Cook's Lessons from Cardinal Pell’s 6-year jail sentence makes a move that should trouble all of us concerned about shoring up the legitimacy of court systems and criminal justice systems in democratic societies. Cook opens by reminding us of that Pell was conficted on the basis of the testimony of one person testifying behind closed doors.

He then goes on to state,

The Pell trial shows that the victim will be presumed to be truthful when he steps into the witness box.

This is something none of us who were not in that closed-door court hearing can possibly know or affirm with any certainty. Because the hearing was, as Cook himself reminds us, a closed-door hearing... It is a judgment without any substance when it's offered by anyone who was not at the closed-door hearing in which testimony was given. 

Yet Pell's ardent defenders — none of them having attended the closed-door hearing — are making this very same argument all over the place these days, trying to undermine the credibility of anyone making allegations against the cardinal.

And there's a reason that only one person testified in that closed-door hearing: as the person who brought charges against Pell has reminded us through his attorney this week

A jury has unanimously accepted the truth of my evidence, Pell chose not to give evidence, the jury did not hear from him.

Pell chose not to give evidence, they jury did not hear from him.

The cardinal surely has his right to an unbiased hearing, and he has the right to appeal. But this having been said, the fervor with which some of his defenders are now seeking to smear those bringing charges against him and, it has to be noted, the Australian court and criminal justice system, ought to give intent concern to anyone who had hoped Catholics have been learning a hard lesson after the cover-up of sexual crimes by Catholic clerics is being brought to light: many of us appear to have learned nothing at all, and do not intend to get beyond our tired old cries of persecution of the Catholic church by demonic secular forces.

Nothing could be more counterproductive than this misplaced tribal defensiveness at this moment of dwindling connection of many folks to the Catholic church for multiple reasons, the abuse horror show chielf among them.

On another, but related, topic: it's thought-provoking to read Jean-Louis Schlegel's commentary on Frédéric Martel's new book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy in light of Pell's conviction. Schlegel's essay is entitled "L’Église catholique rend-elle l’âme?"

Few top Catholic prelates have fought more bitterly against LGBTQ rights than Pell has. His career has been stellar precisely because his hateful culture-war vendetta against the gay community caught the eye of wealthy right-wing Catholics (including not a few American ones) and Catholic leaders in Rome, who helped move him up the ecclesiastical ladder.

Yet as Schlegel notes, a key insight of Martel's book  is the following: 

Par peur, par honte, mais aussi par carriérisme, ces cardinaux, ces archevêques, ces prêtres veulent protéger leur pouvoir et leur vie secrète. [Ils] n’ont aucunement l’intention de faire quoi que ce soit pour les homosexuels.

"Using fear, shame, and above all their careerist power, these (closeted gay) cardinals, archbishops, and priests want to protect their power and their secret lives. They have not the slightest intention to do anything at all for the gay community": as Martel says, a rule of thumb in understanding the twisted relationship of many Catholic hierarchical and clerical leaders to the question of gay rights is this: the more bitterly and vocally homophobic a Catholic prelate is, the more likely it is that he's a secret member of the club, hiding his secrets while bashing open, self-accepting gay people in the outside world, trying to undermine their rights and harm them in every way possible.

It's sick, twisted, and inbuilt in the system as Catholic leaders engage the queer community.

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