I don’t often write about the news, but sometimes it is necessary, not only because of the importance of some particular item, but because it seems that no-one else is making the point. This is one of those cases.
Now that the Cardinal is to be charged, the recent Melbourne University Press book on Cardinal Pell has been withdrawn from sale in Victoria, as has the e-book. The idea is that the Press does not wish to prejudice his trial, which shall take place in Victoria. That is commendable.
But really, if it is prejudicial to have it on sale in Victoria, then why not withdraw it all across Australia?
May I suggest to the good people at MUP that they withdraw it completely? If they don’t, what is to stop the people of Victoria from going online to order it? Or to buy it when they travel inter-state? It is not as if Victoria is sealed off from the rest of the world.
And that raises another issue: what about the books which have been sold? Of course they can’t be retrieved, and the people who have read them made to drink of the waters of Lethe and forget it all. I know that. But there is still a point: the MUP knew that the police had an investigation under way at the time they printed it.
I think that it was a very serious business to print such a book, with such allegations. In such a case, I suggest that the appropriate course is to go to the police with evidence, not to publish it, unless and until you know that the police have dropped their investigation.
The point which follows from all this is a critical one: MUP must have realised that there was a real chance that the book could produce pressure for the Cardinal to be charged, and so they must have realised that if it did, something like this withdrawal would be on the cards.
If they knew that, and I can’t see any other option (but I stand to be corrected), then they must have known that if having any copies available now in Victoria could prejudice the Cardinal’s chance of a fair trial, then having had any copies available in this past year could also prejudice the Cardinal’s chance of a fair trial.
In such a case, to show good faith, it would be good for MUP and their author to donate all their profits to a charity – any genuine charity. That would show that they could see that the situation is gravely unsatisfactory, and that they do not seek to profit from producing such an injustice. I don’t expect them to suffer a loss; but I think it would be only right if they chose to make no profit.
Joseph Azize, 5 July 2017