Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a philosopher, economist and writer on jurisprudence. He is most well-known for his development and expounding of utilitarianism. He considered that the object of legislation should be “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Bentham was an atheist, and a strong proponent of the separation of Church and State. In 1827, John Stuart Mill edited Bentham’s writings on jurisprudence into the five volume Rationale of Judicial Evidence.

His opinion concerning the seal of confession is of topical interest. In Rationale, Bentham considers the case where priests can be forced to testify concerning any felony, but the application to the case of child sexual abuse is obvious, though less widely applicable.

Bentham takes as context for his arguments a country in which Catholicism is “barely tolerated,” and its withering desired, though no coercion is applied to that end; for example, the United Kingdom of the early nineteenth century. Of countries where Catholicism is granted equal standing with other religions – contemporary Australia for instance – he writes that the necessity of protecting the seal of confession “will probably appear too imperious to admit of dispute.” Apparently not. Continue reading “Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession”

Who won?

On the morning of April 7, national television relayed the announcement of my verdict from the High Court. I watched in my cell on Channel 7 as a surprised young reporter informed Australia of my acquittal and became still more perplexed by the unanimity of the seven justices.

That is George Cardinal Pell writing on My Time In Prison for First Things magazine. The surprise and perplexity reflect the response of the majority of those hearing this news. Those of us who were delighted by the news had long experienced perplexity, though not surprise, at the years of relentless persecution of George Pell. We were in a tiny minority. We still are.

Was Cardinal Pell’s eventual acquittal, then, a victory for the Australian justice system? Was it a re-affirmation and consolidation of the principle of the rule of law? Has justice been served? Continue reading “Who won?”

Endemic Pandemic Panic

[A version with slight differences was published 27th April, 2020 on Quadrant Online QED.]

The previous “pandemic”, commonly know as Swine Flu, was caused by a type of Influenza virus known as H1N1. Spanish Flu was also caused by an H1N1 variant. The disease was first detected in Mexico in 2009, and initial reports gave what was eventually seen to be an exaggerated view of the morbidity and mortality of the disease, but, as a paper on the response of Australian emergency departments put it, [a]lthough the severity was subsequently shown to be of less concern, the initial response was, and necessarily had to be, based on the information available at the time. That assumption is invalid, for reasons to be outlined. Nonetheless, the response to that pandemic was somnolent compared to our betters’ instituting a totalitarian state (with a sunset clause) just 10 years later.

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Black Lies Matter

First written 11th June 2020. Submitted unsuccessfully to Quadrant and Catallaxy Files.

Black Lives Matter has its own website. That’s no surprise. The About page summarises BLM (Emphasis mine.)

#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.

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The Burden of Proof and the Pell Case

[Originally published by Quadrant Online on 30th December 2019. Published in Quadrant Magazine March 2020.]

The conviction of the guilty is just; it is the unremarkable business of a just criminal jurisprudence; but the conviction of the innocent strikes at the heart of Justice. If it happens through error or negligence, it is bad enough; when it happens by design, it is an abomination that corrodes trust in the law itself. 

Maimonides in the 12th century, in this commentary on Exodus 23:7 (Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked) concluded, “it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent man to death once in a way.”

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The Samizdat University

The April 2015 edition of First Things included an article by Sir Roger Scruton, titled The End of the University. As Scruton points out, the university as an industrial-scale certification factory is in ruddy good health, enrolling an increasing proportion of the population. Nonetheless, his article is not about some distopian future in which these enterprises collapse, but about the distopian present, in which some essential capacity of the university has been vitiated.

It addresses also the other meaning of the phrase, “the end of the university”; exploring the process by which Scruton himself began to question his purposes in teaching: to what end?

…I asked myself what exactly I was trying to teach, and why.

Continue reading “The Samizdat University”

Israel Folau and the Rainbow Dhimmis

[A version with slight differences was published 28th April, 2019 on Quadrant Online QED.]

Notre Dame de Paris, on the Île de Cité, is a centrepiece of Europe’s Christian cultural heritage; which is to say, a centrepiece of our heritage. The shocked and sombre reaction of most Parisians to the burning Cathedral was shared by anyone with some sense of the debt we owe to the builders, not only those who laboured over centuries on the cathedral itself, but the millennial builders of our patrimony.

The Sorbonne Quarter lies over the river from the Cathedral, and the first universities emerged from the Church schools as expressions of Christianity’s commitment to learning.  The Sorbonne was the second of the great universities to be founded, around 1150, after Bologna. St Thomas Aquinas studied there under St Albertus Magus as the Cathedral was being constructed.

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The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

[Published in Quadrant April 2019, and on Quadrant Online as Memoirs of an Abused Altar Boy, which included links to various documents.]

…so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.                                                 Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In May of 2015, the royal commission came to town, and opened public hearings in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday the 19th, with Justice McClennan presiding. Counsel Assisting, Gail Furness SC, outlined the evidence that was expected to be given, and a number of victims gave evidence about the abuse they suffered. The next day’s proceedings opened with the evidence of Gordon Hill about his abuse at the hands of priests and nuns while he lived at St Joseph’s Home in Sebastopol near Ballarat. He was followed by number of other witnesses, some of whom alleged that they had informed the then Father George Pell about abuse centred on the Ballarat East parish, where Pell was, for some time, an assistant priest. David Ridsdale also repeated his allegation that Pell attempted to bribe him to keep quiet about his abuse at the hands of his uncle, the then Fr Gerald Ridsdale.

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Video Secrets

[An edited version of this article was published in Quadrant Online as Bile! You’re on Qatar’s Candid Camera.]

Two weeks ago, Comedy Central’s Jim Jefferies responded to the Christchurch massacre with a hit piece on Avi Yemini, who is one of the emerging breed of conservative citizen reporters producing videos on social media. Jefferies had interviewed Yemini a few months prior to the massacre, but rushed his heavily edited footage to air as an exposé of Australian white supremacism. It was built around a portrayal of Yemini as an anti-Muslim activist and an anti-black racist.

Unfortunately for Jefferies, Yemini had secretly recorded their conversation. When Jefferies had aired his ambush, Yemini followed suit with a short series combining segments from Jefferies’ piece with unedited sequences from his own. The results are devastating for Jim Jefferies and Comedy Central, as you can see here.

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Men, Improved

[First published in Quadrant Online as Gender Quotas, Merit and Faux Equality.]

Since the outbreak of #metoo hashtagging in the Federal parliamentary Liberal Party, Peta Credlin (among others) has been promoting targets for Liberal women in Parliament.  Simultaneously, she decries quotas as promoted by, for example, the Labor Party.  Women, she says, don’t want a handicapping system for men; women want to win entirely on their own merits; women don’t want to walk into the party room aware that there were better candidates whose shoes they are not quite filling; etc, etc, etc.  Women who are like Peta only want to get into Parliament by their own honest and honourable efforts.

Continue reading “Men, Improved”