This week's Holy Smoke podcast asks whether Cardinal George Pell, jailed in Australia for paedophile crimes, could have been the victim of a hoax.
The possibility needs to be considered following the conviction in Britain of Carl Beech, formerly known as 'Nick', for inventing a non-existent Westminster sex ring in which VIPs supposedly raped and murdered children. He found a disgracefully gullible audience in the Metropolitan Police.
Beech's serial lies were designed to destroy the lives or posthumous reputations of Lord Bramall, former head of the British Army, Sir Edward Heath, former PM, Lord Brittan, former home secretary, ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor and Lord Janner, the late Labour politician.
Beech has been jailed for 18 years. Journalist Catherine Lafferty, who was in court for his trial, talks to me about the troubling parallels with the conviction of Cardinal Pell, former head of the Vatican finances, for child rape.
This is legally sensitive territory – Pell is appealing against his the unanimous verdict of a Melbourne jury – and so our discussion makes use of articles in the public domain in which leading Australian journalists explain why Beech's hoax may be relevant to the case.
Do listen to the podcast, in which we also talk about the quasi-religious hysteria that accompanied both the Westminster VIP paedophile hoax and the 'Satanic Ritual Abuse' scare spread by an unlikely alliance of evangelical Christians and feminist social workers 30 years ago.
Meanwhile, here are the extracts from the articles we read out. Here's Andrew Bolt writing in the Herald Sun on July 24:
“'Carl Beech is a warning to the journalists and police so keen to believe improbable allegations against Cardinal George Pell.
Pell has appealed against his conviction for somehow sexually assaulting two 13-year-old boys at once in an open room in a busy Cathedral, while dressed in two heavy cassocks over his trousers.
The many improbabilities of that conviction have been waved away by many commentators.
Never mind that one of the 13-year-olds, now dead, told his mother he hadn’t been abused. Never mind the witnesses who testified that Pell, as Archbishop, would never have been unaccompanied just after Mass.
It all raises this question: is there something about paedophilia claims against powerful men that makes people more prone to believe the unbelievable? Which brings me to Carl Beech...'
And here's Gerard Henderson in The Australian:
“'Beech’s allegation that such high-profile British men would engage in such risky behaviour in the presence of others, hoping never to be detected, was always fanciful. Yet he conned not only police and journalists but also British Labor MP Tom Watson, who is currently deputy leader of the party.
Enter Peter Saunders, the founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. He will be familiar to Australians who followed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell for historical child sexual abuse. Saunders has appeared on 60 Minutes and ABC TV’S 7.30 to discuss the Pell case. He got wide publicity for describing Pell, who he has never met, as a “sociopath”.
It turns out that Saunders assisted Beech in advancing his claims against Heath, Brittan and the like. In October 2015, Saunders appeared on a BBC Panorama program and described Beech as “entirely credible”. In short, Saunders was convinced that Beech was telling the truth.'
An interesting connection, don't you think? Listen to the Holy Smoke podcast here.