Top-ranking Vatican cardinal charged with sex offenses in Australia – Julie Zauzmer

George Pell

Julie ZauzmerCardinal George Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” the Australian criminal justice system’s term for offenses committed in the past. – Julie Zauzmer

A cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s finances has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australian police, in one of the most significant indictments against a top-ranking leader of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal George Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” the Australian criminal justice system’s term for offenses committed in the past, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton announced at a news conference on Thursday morning in Australia.

That morning, Victoria police notified Pell’s legal representative that he has been charged and must appear in court on July 18, Patton said.

Patton said that Pell was treated no differently than any other defendant because of his high rank in the Vatican—notifying a legal representative and summoning the defendant to court at a later date is the recommendation of Australian prosecutors in a case like his.

Patton did not discuss the details of the case, so it was not clear whether Pell was charged with participating in abuse or covering it up.

In the Vatican, Pell’s job as secretariat of the economy is so crucial that it has been described as the second-most-powerful role in Rome, after only the pope. But for years, he has faced accusations of improper behaviour connected with clergy sexual abuse in Australia.

In Ballarat, Pell’s hometown, dozens of children were abused by priests. After the abuse came to light, priests testified under oath that Pell knew about the abuse while it was occurring.

The scale of the abuse in Ballarat was staggering: In one fourth-grade class of 33 boys, 12 committed suicide, the Post reported in 2015. Five priests who worked in the parish were convicted of crimes, including one who was found guilty of abusing more than 50 children.

Two years ago, Peter Saunders, a survivor of sexual abuse on the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, spoke out against Pell, calling him “almost sociopathic” in his lack of concern for the victims of abuse in an interview with Australia’s television program “60 Minutes.”

Saunders asked Pope Francis at the time to remove Pell from his position and take “the strongest action against him.” But Pell publicly refuted Saunders’s allegations, and a Vatican spokesman stood with Pell, saying the cardinal “must be considered reliable.”

Pell has served as a priest since 1966.

In response to an Australian inquiry into clergy sexual abuse last year, he testified in court that he had heard about “misbehavior” by two priests—including priests kissing children and swimming naked with them—but had not reported it. He had heard only fleeting references to the priests’ actions, he said, and knew little about the incidents.

He said he doesn’t remember a child ever reporting abuse to him, though he added, “My memory is sometimes fallible,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. When children did report abuse in earlier decades, he said, they weren’t likely to be believed.

“In those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial,” he said. “At that stage, the instinct was more to protect the institution, the community of the Church, from shame.” In his testimony, he said, “The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those.”

On Thursday morning, Patton did not offer any details about the charges against Pell, other than to say that the cardinal faces “multiple charges in respect to historical offenses.” – The Washington Post, 28 June 2017

» Julie Zauzmer is a religion reporter for the Washington Post in Washington, DC.

Protest against George Pell


Ganesha and Lakshmi on Australian beer bottle labels! –

Ganesha on Australian beer bottle label.

Yadu SinghAn Australian brewery has come under fire after its alcoholic ginger beer bottles were labelled with pictures of Hindu deities Ganesh and Lakshmi.

Indian community leaders in Australia have called for the New South Wales-based Brookvale Union Brewery to apologise and immediately withdraw the labels, which portray the combined head and body of two prominent deities of the Hindu religion. 

The president of the Indian Australian Association of New South Wales Yadu Singh has called such a depiction by the brewery “disgusting”.

“The juxtaposed picture has Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha with the head of a Cow in one hand and fire coming out of the Lord Ganesha’s head,” Singh said on his blog.

He further wrote: “This is in very poor taste and obviously very cheap, besides being insensitive. This is offensive, unacceptable and objectionable.

“Using deities and symbols of Hinduism in this grossly inappropriate and offensive manner is not a matter of joke or fun.”

However, Brookvale Union Brewery said the labels were meant to depict “flair, feel and colours of the Asian continent” and that the images were not intended to cause offence, according to Sydney Morning Herald. 

“The aim was to create a great-tasting drink representing the flair, feel and colours from the Asian continent, the primary source of ginger 

“With recent feedback brought to our attention, we will be looking at design options for our bottles,” a spokesman for the brewery said. 

This is not the first time Hindu symbols have been used inappropriately by commercial brands in Australia.

In 2011, Hindus were outraged when the image of the goddess Lakshmi was portrayed on a swimsuit at Australian Fashion Week. The company immediately pulled the item from production and apologised for any offence caused. –, 14 November 2013

Brookvale Union Brewery SignageBrookvale Union Beer addresses criticism with new design invitation – Aoife Boothroyd

Following criticism over its controversial ginger beer label, Brookvale Union has invited designers to come up with a new creative to better the current design.

The brewery copped criticism from the Hindu community over the label of its ginger beer which features juxtaposed images of Hindu deities, Ganesh and Lakshmi.

The controversial label attracted the attention of Hindu statesman and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed, who said that the label was ‘highly inappropriate’, as using Hindu deities, concepts or symbols for commercial purposes is highly insensitive to the religion’s devotees.

In order to tackle the issue, Brookvale is calling out to graphic designers and budding artists to come up with a new design.

The chosen design will become part of the new branding for the Brookvale Union range, and will be featured on bottles, packaging and marketing material.

Brookvale’s brief for the new design is as follows:

  • Ensure your submission aligns with the Brookvale Union brand – refer to the website, existing Apple Cider and Ginger Beer bottles and cartons, Facebook and Instagram pages for inspiration
  • To the best of the designers’ knowledge, do not use imagery that may be deemed offensive
  • Keep the tagline of ‘Quality Nonsense’ in mind

The company has also reiterated that it never intended to cause any offense, and has begun the process of removing the images from its website.

Submissions for the new creative will be accepted until 5pm on Sunday, 24 November. – Hospitality Magazine, 14 November 2013

» Contact the Brookvale Union Beer Company at

Ganesha and Lakshmi on Australian beer bottle and box!

Indians made it to Australia more than 4,000 years before the British – Irina Pugach

Aboriginal Australians watching the arrival of 'Indians' 4000 years ago.

Dr. Irina Pugach“Long before Europeans settled in Australia humans had migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Australia and mixed with Australian aborigines.” – Dr. Irina Pugach

Australia is thought to have remained largely isolated between its initial colonization around 40,000 years ago and the arrival of Europeans in the late 1[7]00s [first colony established 1788—Ed]. A study led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, now finds evidence of substantial gene flow between Indian populations and Australia about 4,000 years ago. In addition, the researchers found a common origin for Australian, New Guinean and the Philippine Mamanwa populations. These populations followed an early southern migration route out of Africa, while other populations settled in the region only at a later date.

Australia holds some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of modern humans outside Africa, with the earliest sites dated to at least 45,000 years ago, making Australian aboriginals one of the oldest continuous populations outside Africa. It is commonly assumed that following the initial dispersal of people into Sahul (joint Australia-New Guinea landmass) and until the arrival of the Europeans late in the 18th Century, there was no contact between Australia and the rest of the world.

Indian Street DogAustralian Dingo Researcher Irina Pugach and colleagues now analysed genetic variation from across the genome from aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, island Southeast Asians, and Indians. Their findings suggest substantial gene flow from India to Australia 4,230 years ago, i.e. during the Holocene and well before European contact. “Interestingly,” says Pugach, “this date also coincides with many changes in the archaeological record of Australia, which include a sudden change in plant processing and stone tool technologies, with microliths appearing for the first time, and the first appearance of the dingo in the fossil record. Since we detect inflow of genes from India into Australia at around the same time, it is likely that these changes were related to this migration.”

Their analyses also reveal a common origin for populations from Australia, New Guinea and the Mamanwa – a Negrito group from the Philippines – and they estimated that these groups split from each other about 36,000 years ago. Mark Stoneking says: “This finding supports the view that these populations represent the descendants of an early ‘southern route’ migration out of Africa, while other populations in the region arrived later by a separate dispersal.” This also indicates that Australians and New Guineans diverged early in the history of Sahul, and not when the lands were separated by rising sea waters around 8,000 years ago. – EurekAlert, 14 January 2013

» Original publication: Irina Pugach, Frederick Delfin, Ellen Gunnarsdóttir, Manfred Kayser, Mark Stoneking Genome-wide data substantiates Holocene gene flow from India to Australia PNAS, Online Early Edition, January 2013. Contact Dr. Irina Pugach at email 

See also

Australia: Men and dogs migrated from India – TNIE

Australia MapAs the distinctive fauna and flora of Australia suggest, the island-continent had been cut off from the rest of the world for several thousand years. It is believed that the main migrations occurred between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago by people from south-east Asia, who went there along the ‘land bridges’ and short sea-crossings. Latest findings indicate that the migrations from India and south-east Asia continued till 4,000 years ago, which may explain why the indigenous population was as high as between 7,50,000 and 10,00,000 till the European settlements began in the 18th century.

Australian Dingo DogA comparison of the genetic material of Aboriginal Australians with the people of New Guinea, south-east Asia and India has shown the migrants from India may have brought stone tools or microliths and food processing techniques, as well as dogs, to their new home. Morphologically, the Australian dingo closely resembles the Indian dogs, according to another group of researchers. The journeys over the vast distances are “one of the first dispersals of modern humans”, according to Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who is the leader of the team that carried out the genetic study.

Indian Street DogHowever, according to him, it is something of “a conundrum that people who got there this early would have been so isolated”. There is little doubt that this mystery will be solved sooner or later, but what is obvious is that the migrations had tapered off because the earlier urge to seek a new land perhaps under the pressure of an expanding population had diminished. The Indian connection is an indication, however, of how mankind’s long march, which began in Africa, had passed through the subcontinent before reaching the southern hemisphere. – The New Indian Express, 16 January 2013

See also

Assange Impact: Internet censorship – Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain“There can be little doubt that whistle-blower par excellence, Julian Assange, and his Wikileaks revelations triggered America’s determination to have totalitarian control over the Internet. In Australia, Assange’s native country with which Washington recently deepened strategic ties, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced … that she wanted to give law enforcement agencies the power to bug phones and intercept emails … the same day she … announced a series of agreements on data sharing with US secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.” – Sandhya Jain

Big BrotherIndia’s proposal that the United Nations appoint a 50-member watchdog body to regulate the internet has elicited some sharply divergent opinions. One side maintains that the proposed Committee for Internet Related Polices (CIRP), which would oversee all Internet standards bodies and rule on all Internet-related disputes, is a draconian measure that puts India in the same bracket as regimes that restrict or oppose Internet freedom.

Critics, however, say this view is being sponsored by America and countries at the receiving end of Wikileaks’ exposés via the Internet. Within India, this view is being supported by those sections of the mainstream print and electronic media that have conformed so much to corporate or political pressures that the absence of real news coverage has had to be made up with an overdose of ‘expert’ opinions. Usually the same panel of experts pontificate on every subject under the sun, day after day. Exasperated readers/viewers vent ire and sarcasm on Facebook and Twitter.

The critics charge that the mainstream media has been effectively challenged by the social media on issues it has ignored, underplayed, or overplayed. One powerful example is the resignation of a high-profile politician from the chairmanship of a parliamentary standing committee after the ‘internet rangers’ went after him for an alleged misdemeanour. On another occasion, the media was subjected to ‘virtual bashing’ for its criticism of the SIT report on the Gujarat riots.

A more mature view states that India’s proposal, first articulated at the General Assembly in 2011, will democratize control of the Internet by releasing it from unilateral American control. Currently, the critical root zone server and Internet names and addresses system is managed by a body under contract with the US Department of Commerce, and functions completely under American laws. This single point control has become a matter of concern for many nations, especially in the wake of American plans for an Internet kill switch legislation, which will have a worldwide impact. Hence India favours a body with equal representation of all nations as a safeguard against monopoly power.

Julian AssangeThere can be little doubt that whistle-blower par excellence, Julian Assange, and his Wikileaks revelations triggered America’s determination to have totalitarian control over the Internet. In Australia, Assange’s native country with which Washington recently deepened strategic ties, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced on 4 May 2012 that she wanted to give law enforcement agencies the power to bug phones and intercept emails for up to six months; the same day she and junior minister Jason Clare announced a series of agreements on data sharing with US secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.

Unless resisted, Australians will soon have to put up with such privacy intrusions and erosion of liberties. Ms Roxon also wants to give government the power to impose a heavy hand on telecommunications providers. Under such laws, warns Greg Barns, a barrister and National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, it would be ridiculously easy for the authorities to interrogate every device used by Julian Assange (mobile phone, laptop, iPad), and capture any leaks which the government did not want revealed. There would be no court scrutiny for six months.

Roxon & NapolitanoMore unnerving is the fact that the Attorney General wants telecommunications companies to keep data for two years, so that if the law enforcement agencies want, they can trawl through every email, text message and phone number of a person who catches their eye for any reason whatever. Eyebrows have been raised over a joint statement by Ms Roxon and Ms Napolitano on countering transnational crime, terrorism and violent extremism “which commits Australia and the US to share law-enforcement data to combat crime and expand information sharing to counter violent extremism”. Citizens question if the Australian government should give Washington data on its own citizens without putting judicial safeguards in place. They wonder if “violent extremism” covers the activities of environmental groups and people’s movements like Occupy Wall Street.

Australia has also committed to “working more closely with the US on information and intelligence sharing, in particular, targeting and risk assessments to combat transnational organised crime, including terrorism”. Greg Barns points out that the Australian Prime Minister believes that Wikileaks is covered by the term “transnational organised crime”.

Wikileaks LogoIn an interview to New International in April 2012, Assange expressed concern over the burgeoning power and expansion of national intelligence agencies which are now monitoring almost every border and every internet traffic flow. Governments around the world are buying equipment worth $10 million annually in order to record every single telephone call, email and SMS going in and out of a country.

This is not random scrutiny, but a permanent record. In this way, whenever a government wants to check someone out, it has a complete archive of his/her life; the intercepts will show who the subject’s friends are, their communications and so on. It’s the totalitarian surveillance of George Orwell’s 1984. In fact, governments can do bulk surveillance from anywhere. Försvarets Radioanstalt, Sweden’s spy agency, intercepts 80 per cent of Russian internet traffic and sells it to America.

For individuals and small groups, hope comes from groups known as crypto-anarchists, who are trying to develop programmes to encrypt communications and make them anonymous. Meanwhile, one way for the individual or group to resist the totalitarian state – whether a democracy or a dictatorship – is by promptly disseminating information received and sharing insights. Such a worldwide bush telegraph will erode the ability of governments to manufacture consent among the people by controlling the mainstream media, as the Internet will not allow free opinions to be muffled. In this way, the spread of knowledge will produce its own impact.

Ironically, though India favours multilateral control of the Internet, all is not honky-dory here. Communications Minister Kapil Sibal tried to introduce some controls after material defamatory to the Congress president was pasted on Facebook. When service providers told him that pre-censorship was impossible, he suggested they “self-regulate”. In fact, India has frequently made internet companies remove content or block a webpage, often without good reason. Facebook removes content desired by the government, without informing users. Google often removes content at government demand, but recently refused to remove a blog and YouTube videos critical of some chief ministers and senior officials of different states. Clearly, the urge to curb political dissent is universal. – Vijayvaani, New Delhi, 22 May 2012

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