Author: RJ Smith

Convictions and Doubts: The Case of Cardinal Pell

On 9 January 2020, officials at the Melbourne Assessment Prison intercepted a drone flying over the prison grounds. Remotely piloted aircraft are banned within 120 metres of a correctional facility in the Australian state of Victoria to avoid the smuggling of contraband and other security breaches. This drone was not fitted with drugs or weapons or mobile phones but a camera its operator hoped would capture the prison’s highest profile inmate. That inmate was Cardinal George Pell, the most senior member of the Catholic Church ever convicted of child sex offences. Pell was moved to Barwon prison after the drone incident. Barwon houses Victoria’s most dangerous offenders, including serial killers Gregory Brazel and Paul (now Paula) Denyer, terrorist Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Barbaro ‘Ndrangheta crime clan leader Pasquale Barbaro. It was Barwon where the leader of a prison gang beat well-known Melbourne crime figure Carl Williams to death with a metal rod extracted from an exercise bike in 2011. From Ballarat to Barwon via Oxford and Rome Barwon is a mere one hour drive from …

In Defence of the Past

Auguste Comte was one of the most famous and admired thinkers of the early nineteenth century, but fell into obscurity in the course of the twentieth. This is a shame, because Comte’s philosophy is an optimistic one, and his methods are useful in resolving many of the problems we face in the West today. Comte is best known as the inventor of positivism. His “law of three stages” theory earned him admirers such as John Stuart Mill in England, the Young Turks (not the YouTube commentators), and nineteenth century Mexican educational reformers. The motto ordem e progresso (order and progress) on the Brazilian flag is derived directly from Comte’s ideas. According to Comte, civilizations pass through three stages of development: the theological stage, the metaphysical stage and the positive stage. In the theological stage, the society believes that all things were created and are controlled by a supernatural being. In the metaphysical stage, the society resorts to reason to explain observed phenomena while still embracing aspects of theology. In the third stage, reason and scientific …