Cultural hegemony probably wasn’t the first thing most people thought of when they heard about the dismissal of Cardinal Pell’s appeal. But we’ve got to think about it now.

Impartial observers who doubted the innocence of Cardinal Pell will be no closer to a resolution following last week’s judgment by the Victorian Court of Appeal.

For one thing, the court itself was divided. Justice Mark Weinberg’s comprehensive and forensic dissection of the prosecution case has rightly attracted perhaps more interest than the majority judgment of Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Justice Chris Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal.

As Paul Kelly reported in The Weekend Australian, “Weinberg has ensured that grave doubts about Pell’s guilt will not be dissipated by the 2-1 verdict against him.”

Other observers are in no doubt that Cardinal Pell is an innocent man. See here, here, here and here.

Fr Raymond de Souza’s rousing analysis recalls that at the time of the alleged offences, Cardinal Pell, in his first days as Archbishop of Melbourne, established the Melbourne Response, the first redress scheme of its kind. The Court of Appeal would have us believe that Cardinal Pell was simultaneously a grotesque sexual predator and a world-leading pioneer for victims’ rights and redress.

I’m usually a dry-eyed realist, but I got this one wrong. I thought that Cardinal Pell’s appeal would be upheld. I thought that on the basis of two things.

First, there were all but no established facts in this case, with zero corroborative evidence led in support of the allegations. Justice Weinberg confirms,

In the present case, the prosecution relied entirely upon the evidence of the complainant to establish guilt, and nothing more. There was no supporting evidence of any kind from any other witness.  Indeed, there was no supporting evidence of any kind at all.  These convictions were based upon the jury’s assessment of the complainant as a witness, and nothing more. [1]

Second, and notwithstanding Weinberg J’s dissenting view, I had confidence that the Court of Appeal as a panel would rule on the evidence. To be clear, I am not impugning individuals; not the judges, jurors, not even the police.

So what is really going on? As The Age reported in 2012 and reprinted earlier this year:

Pell seems to see it as his task to keep the rest of us on the right path – not just Catholics but society in general. In speeches, newspaper columns and pronouncements from the pulpit, he delivers judgment on the big issues of the day, denouncing the Greens party as “anti-Christian” and dismissing climate-change concern as “a symptom of pagan emptiness” with the same conviction that he preaches about the sinfulness of contraception, abortion and sex outside marriage.

And so his fate was sealed.

Even while Ferguson CJ was reassuring the intermittently live-streamed global audience that the court’s judgment was about this case and this case only, Channel 9 had lined up an array of interviewees with no direct case involvement who were wildly rejoicing in the Cardinal’s continued incarceration.

In retrospect, how naïve I am to believe that mere weighing of the evidence would be sufficient to acquit. Returning to the notion of cultural hegemony, this is how Wikipedia defines the term. It is a chilling articulation of cultural elites’ program for Australia and western civilisation.

In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society—the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores—so that their imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm; the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.

We are, all of us – judges, juries and police included – like proverbial frogs being boiled in the constantly rising temperatures of ideological stridency. 

Cardinal Pell is not the only one who stands for unfashionable causes. All faithful Catholics do. Last Sunday at Mass, for example, my parish was treated to an eloquent and full-throated homily on hell. More please. 

More too, of young people, as we saw in Sydney last week, protesting the destruction of unborn lives. More bishops please, like Cardinal Pell, who boldly teach the truth, come what may. And more Catholic lay faithful counter-infiltrating the cultural institutions.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Pell languishes in solitary confinement, forbidden to offer or attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I think of him often, especially when I enjoy some ordinary comfort, such as the company of family and friends or jumping in the car to go somewhere, anywhere. He may be stripped of worldly honours; that will mean nothing to him. He may have lost his Vatican position and is no longer the leader of a diocese, but he is a priest forever and true Alter Christus in the vein of St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

1  – Reasons of the Court of Appeal, Pell v The Queen [2019] VSCA 186 at paragraph 925 accessible at

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