PopeWatch: Our Dreyfus

As for myself, I have not despaired in the least, of the triumph of right. I repeat with the most vehement conviction: truth is on the march, and nothing will stop it. Today is only the beginning, for it is only today that the positions have become clear: on one side, those who are guilty, who do not want the light to shine forth, on the other, those who seek justice and who will give their lives to attain it. I said it before and I repeat it now: when truth is buried underground, it grows and it builds up so much force that the day it explodes it blasts everything with it. We shall see whether we have been setting ourselves up for the most resounding of disasters, yet to come.

Emile Zola, from his J’accuse letter to the President of the French Republic in defense of Dreyfus, January 13, 1898


Phil Lawler nails it:


The conviction of Cardinal George Pell on sex-abuse charges, despite the complete absence of evidence against him, was a shock and a black mark against the Australian justice system. The decision by an appeals court to uphold that verdict compounds the problem and the disgrace. The cardinal will appeal to Australia’s highest court. And in that appeal, Australian society will be on trial.

The prosecution of Cardinal Pell threatens to become Australia’s version of the Dreyfus Affair, the disgraceful conviction that troubled the French political world for more than a decade around the turn of the 20th century. Captain Albert Dreyfus, accused and twice convicted of espionage, was a convenient target: unpopular because he was Jewish. When evidence emerged showing that he was not guilty, powerful military officers concealed that evidence and falsified evidence against him. The French public was howling for a conviction, and the ruling class decided that it was better to betray an innocent man than to admit an injustice.

In Australia today, the government—specifically the justice system—is now also heavily invested in the conviction of Cardinal Pell. To admit an error would be to admit an unreasonable verdict, brought about by an unreasonable prosecution, and now buttressed by an unreasonable appeals-court decision. To say that Cardinal Pell is not guilty is to imply that the judicial system is guilty in its treatment of his case. Will the country’s top court have the courage to reach that verdict?

Like Captain Dreyfus, Cardinal Pell is an unpopular figure in his own country. He has been vilified by the media, hounded by accusations that he covered up sexual abuse, made to appear as the principal cause of the scandal in Australia. That characterization is unjustified. Although he was not blameless in his handling of abuse cases—and has admitted as much—his “Melbourne Response” was the best set of policies at the time; his reaction to the crisis was considerably better than that of other Australian prelates. The truth of the matter is that Cardinal Pell became the favorite target of the media because he was an unapologetically orthodox (call him “conservative” if you must) Church leader, in a country where such courageous Catholic leadership is a rarity. He was, like Dreyfus, a convenient target; ideologues wanted him to be guilty.

Go here to read the rest.  Justice will prevail:  perhaps in this world, assuredly in the next.

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