The reaction to the High Court’s decision on George Pell dominates this new edition of the Weekend Wrap. There’s also plenty of other news and views of concern to secular-minded Aussies. Stay safe, everyone.
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At the National Level
While urging people to stay home in his Easter message to the country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison lamented that families would not have the opportunity of “going off to church and our religious services where we can remember the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (The West).
The High Court, in an unanimous decision, freed Cardinal George Pell after quashing his child sexual abuse convictions due to a lack of evidence (ABC).
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has asked Prime Minister Morrison to release the secret sections about Pell in the royal commission's report into institutional child sexual abuse (The Age).
Hours after the High Court judgement, Pope Francis appeared to offer support to Pell in a tweet talking about people who “sufffer” due to a miscarriage of justice and because “someone had it in for them” (The Chroncle).
Melbourne’s Archbishop Peter Comensoli defended the Pope’s tweet, saying it had been “entirely misunderstood” and had nothing to do with Pell (3AW).
In welcoming the court's judgement, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher asked that the “pursuit of [Pell] that brought us to this point now cease” (Catholic Weekly).
Lawyers say they expect a string of civil claims against Pell and the Catholic Church from alleged abuse survivors and their families (The Guardian).
Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven has slammed the Victorian Police and accused the ABC of “polluting" the legal atmosphere around the cardinal’s trial (ABC).
The Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Iles has described the mainstream media as a “crooked bunch” with an apparent ‘MO’ to “viciously pursue certain people to destroy them” (ACL).
A new report prepared by human rights activists and endorsed by 202 NGOs across the country has urged the federal government to enact an Equality Act instead of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill (Star Observer).
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has warned bookseller Dymocks that it could be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act for marketing various editions of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf (J-Wire).
Israel Folau’s multi-million-dollar payout from Rugby Australia will be at risk if the sporting body goes under due to the coronavirus pandemic (News).
Around the Country
VIC: Police raided an ultra-Orthodox Jewish prayer session and fined the leader of the group involved after at least 10 men were praying in contravention of social-distancing rules (The Age).
VIC: A Jewish radio station has apologised for airing a syndicated show that suggested that the coronavirus pandemic was a “designer drug” sent from God to eradicate homosexuality in preparation for the redemption (Out in Perth).
VIC: Safe access zones around abortion clinics would be under threat if the Morrison government’s Religious Discrimination Bill were to be enacted, the state’s Attorney-General has warned (Herald Sun).
VIC: The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has upheld the Medical Board of Australia's suspension of Christian doctor for expressing views on issues such as abortion and for “denigrating, demeaning and slurring medical practitioners” (Eternity News).
SA: Adelaide’s Anglican Archbishop Geoffrey Smith has been elected Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia (In Daily).
Commentary and Analysis
In an Easter message upon his release from prison, George Pell writes that “Christians can cope with suffering better than the atheists can explain the beauty and happiness of life” (The Australian).
Legal experts Ben Mathews and Mark Thomas explain how Cardinal Pell won his appeal on a legal technicality (The Conversation).
Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked, argues that the “Left-leaning media” and the Twitterati hold double standards in demonising Catholicism (The Australian).
Chip Le Grand explores the task at hand for Australia’s leading Catholics in moving forward from the child sexual abuse scandals and reconnecting with the community (The Age).
Francis Sullivan, former chief executive of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, writes that the bishops now must “end their obsession with Pell” and focus on helping victims of sexual abuse (The Guardian).
Within the pews of the Catholic Church, the Pell saga has divided many and caused some to simply walk away, writes Barney Zwartz (SMH).
In defence of the Prime Minister holding prayer sessions, Murray Campbell writes that “true secularism” must allow for leaders to express their faith publicly.
That's it for another week!
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