The most senior Australian Catholic and one of the most senior officials of the Catholic Church globally, George Pell was found guilty of child sexual assault. Pell has been not only a strongly reactionary figure within Catholicism but also in Australian politics. A friend of former PM Tony Abbott, his willingness to lecture the nation on issues of sexual morality was just part of his gamut of far-right opinions. He was happy to use his office to also spread lies about climate change — notably the denialist Global Warming Policy have since scrubbed his 2011 speech endorsing their positions but Trump’s EPA lead Scott Pruitt also sought to recruit Pell as a voice to boost global warming denial.
The man has been a personification of the bully, both in how he treated victims and families of victims of abuse within Catholic organizations but also in his wider political stances in which he always chose to boost the rich & powerful and target the marginalized and vulnerable. We now know that the tendency to abuse authority had a more direct and evil aspect to it.
A side aspect of the case has been the court’s suppression order of the verdict. Pell was found guilty in December but the Australian press has only been able to legally report on the verdict since yesterday. The restriction was due to a second set of charges against Pell that would need to have been tried separately with a new jury. This second trial was unable to proceed and hence the suppression order was lifted.
There is much wailing about this in the media. The Daily Beast back in December simply ignored the order and reported on the verdict. Other outlets have been more responsible. Yet we still have the press complaining about it (eg this Guardian piece https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2019/feb/27/pells-trial-shows-courts-cant-keep-secrets-in-the-internet-age )
I was aware of the verdict prior to the lifting of the order but I know many Australians who were not and only found out about it yesterday. To that extent the order did what it needed to do: make it possible that a jury could be empaneled to hear the second case. A right to a fair trial is more important than immediate press coverage, even for an appalling person like Pell. It is important not just for the rights of accused but also for victims. A delay in press coverage hurt nobody and didn’t help Pell — his reputation and status was not protected by the delay. Media outlets just have to get over themselves, confusing the importance of free-speech with a need for immediacy and being the first, is not a net benefit to anybody. A modicum of patience so that intrinsically traumatic legal processes can be conducted humanely for all involved manifestly is more important.