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Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell.

Author: Louise Milligan

Publisher: Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2017

ISBN: 9780522871340:

Paperback, 384 pages, $34.99

Note by James Franklin (*)

This book is not all rubbish. Milligan has interviewed a considerable number of people and written down what they said. The accounts by some victims of clerical sexual abuse whom she spoke to have not been heard in detail before and add to our understanding of that story. Perhaps the most interesting story is Michael Costigan's recollection of what Bishop Mulkearns told him about his meeting with John Paul II. Mulkearns, by then mired in the sexual abuse scandal in Ballarat, asked for some guidance on what to do about it. The Pope turned and walked away.

The problem lies with the interpretations of evidence. The obtuseness of Milligan's understanding of human interactions is especially clear in her account of Pell's cross-examination in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse over the case of Father Searson. Pell had been Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and had some dealings with Searson, whose bizarre behaviour included stabbing a bird. Pell is asked about this on oath. He is aware of the event but not every detail. Counsel assisting, Gail Furness, says "There is a reference to Father Searson stabbing to death a bird in front of the children." Pell has sworn to give evidence of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He says carefully, "I don't know whether the bird was already dead." Milligan takes Furness to have caught Pell out in a case of gross lack of empathy when she asks "Does it matter whether the bird was dead, or it was stabbed when it was dead?" Pell says "Not really." Indeed. To see a "gotcha" moment in someone taking normal care under cross-examination is pure tendentious invention. The rest of Milligan's spin on the evidence from alleged victims and from Pell is along the same lines. Some more detailed examination of her case, written in a polemical style similar to Milligan's own, can be found in Julia Yost's article, 'The case against Cardinal Pell'. (1)

Milligan's allegations of abuse against Pell cannot be discussed in print as yet since they are subjudice in Victoria.

(*) James Franklin is the editor of the .

(1) Julia Yost, The case against Cardinal Pell, First Things, 3 July 2017,

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Author:Franklin, James
Publication:Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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