Vatican: Cardinal Pell news is ‘painful’ and he has right to defend himself to the end

Cardinal George Pell leaves the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

The Vatican responded Cardinal George Pell’s conviction of sexual abuse of minors by announcing that “to guarantee the course of justice,” Pope Francis “has confirmed the precautionary measures that were imposed by the local bishop on Cardinal George Pell on his return to Australia, namely: while awaiting the definitive verification of the facts, Cardinal Pell is prohibited in a precautionary way from the public exercise of ministry and, as according to the norm, any contact whatsoever and in any form with minors.”

The Vatican said the conviction is “a painful news that, we are well aware, has shocked very many persons, not only in Australia.” At the same time, “it reaffirmed maximum respect for the Australian judicial authorities.”

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It said the Holy See “joined” the Australian Bishops’ Conference “in recognizing the sentence of condemnation of Cardinal George Pell in the first grade, and said it awaited the final outcome of the appeal.” It recalled that the cardinal has “reaffirmed his innocence” and “has the right to defend himself to the final grade.”

The Vatican statement, read by Alessandro Gisotti, the interim director of the Holy See’s press office, said that “while awaiting the definitive judgment, we join the Australian bishops in praying for all the victims of abuse, by reaffirming our commitment to do everything possible so that the church is a safe house for all, and especially for children and vulnerable persons.”

Given the seriousness of the counts on which the cardinal was convicted and in the light of the imposition of precautionary measures imposed on him by Pope Francis, sources in Rome expect the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to open an investigation regarding Cardinal Pell in due course. 

The announcement follows the conviction of the cardinal on five counts of the sexual abuse of two 13 year old boys in Melbourne Cathedral in the 1990s. The counts carry a potential 50-year prison sentence.

The judge will begin the sentence hearing at 10 a.m. Australian time on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The cardinal’s lawyers have lodged an appeal, which will be held in the Court of Appeal at 2:30 p.m. that same day according to The Age, an Australian daily.

The announcement came just twelve hours after the Australian judge, Peter Kidd, decided that there was insufficient evidence to hold a second trial against the cardinal, and dismissed the case.

He then lifted the suppression order that he had imposed last year, which prevented the media from revealing anything about the first trial, including the jury’s verdict at the first trial. After the suppression order was lifted by Judge Kidd, the Australian and international media immediately published the news of the cardinal’s conviction in December.

On that day, the 12-member jury in unanimously found Cardinal Pell guilty on all five counts of historical sexual offenses against two 13 year old choir boys in Melbourne cathedral in late 1996 and early 1997.

After the jury delivered its verdict, the judge released the cardinal on bail so that he could undergo urgent surgery on his knee and announced that sentencing would take place after the second trial. Now that the second trial will no longer be held, the judge will begin the sentencing process tomorrow, Feb. 27, and is expected to impose a prison sentence on the cardinal.

The cardinal’s lawyers will lodge an appeal and request “the continuance of bail” until the appeal is heard. The judge will make his decision, tomorrow or in the coming days, whether to send the cardinal to jail immediately or to allow him to remain on bail.

This morning, Feb. 26, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, who delivered the homily at the closing Mass of the Vatican summit and is still in Rome, issued a statement, but refused to take any questions.

“The news of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on historical child sexual abuse charges has shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia.
The Bishops agree that everyone should be equal under the law, and we respect the Australian legal system. The same legal system that delivered the verdict will consider the appeal that the Cardinal’s legal team has lodged. Our hope, at all times, is that through this process, justice will be served.
In the meantime, we pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones, and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable.

A source close to Cardinal Pell told America that the cardinal was informed yesterday that the second trial was thrown out by the judge for because the allegations were “untenable,” given a lack of evidence.

The same source told America that the conviction of the cardinal for historical sexual offenses was handed down in a retrial. He said the jury in an earlier trial could not reach a verdict, divided with 10 jurors in favor of acquittal and 2 in favor of conviction. He said the judge asked the jury to give him “a majority verdict of 11-1” and he would acquit the cardinal, but the jury could not do so and so he dismissed the jury and ordered a retrial.

The jury in that retrial delivered the unanimous verdict on all five counts, thereby opening the way to the sentencing process that begins tomorrow.

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Paul Mclaughlin
2 months 3 weeks ago

He has been convicted and he does has the right to appeal, but he should be suspended in some all priestly and Canonical duties until the appeals have been heard and decided upon. Not just those which are deemed public.

We just heard a lot of disappointing hot air - not from the victims - but from the clerics. And, what happens on the first instance after the meeting? The Church throws a wild pitch that didn’t come close to the plate.

Pell should been allowed to maintain his public functioning until the verdict, but once convicted - things needs to change, while recognizing his right to appeal. They are tone deaf in Rome.

Finally, while he was among the Gang of 9, we can’t forget that he like McCarrick began the climb under JP2? When the record is written, too many of the trails will be traced to JP2 appointments and friends.

Reyanna Rice
2 months 3 weeks ago

He is suspended from any type of public ministry, I.e. he can’t say Mass in public nor any other sacrament in public nor s he to be around minors in any way whatsoever. It’s right there in the article. What more “suspended in all some priestly and Canonical duties” do you want?

J. Calpezzo
2 months 3 weeks ago

Jail time in the Vatican dungeon.

Lisa M
2 months 3 weeks ago

As with every case, we should pray for the truth to prevail. My understanding, but I could be wrong, is the first trial ended with a hung jury, one juror voting for guilt. This particular trial does not appear to be an obvious one, which is sad and unsettling. We never want a innocent person to be found guilty of a crime they did not commit, yet we also never want a victim not to be believed. It is difficult, truly difficult.

J Jones
2 months 3 weeks ago

Lisa, read carefully for the statements by Pell's own defense attorneys. They do not deny the event occured: they minimize and re-categorize the event.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/02/26/australia/pell-sex-abuse-conviction-appeal-intl/index.html

Lisa M
2 months 3 weeks ago

J- Thanks. It is my understanding that once he was found guilty his lawyer was not able to use innocence as a reason in his attempt for bail. That said, his hypothetical examples of, if he did it, were both absurd and offensive.

J Jones
2 months 3 weeks ago

Lisa, thanks for that clarification of your understanding about Australian law.

J Jones
2 months 2 weeks ago

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/28/robert-richter-apologises-for-describing-george-pells-abuse-as-vanilla-sex

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

This is exactly the reason that suppression orders for reporting needed to be in place.
In the Australian legal system concerning the time after the jury verdict of guilt, it is then deemed impossible for the court to talk as if the convicted person was innocent, and so a ridiculous pantomime is forced upon the defence legal team to argue for bail continuance or mitigation in sentencing even if they and the convicted person are still adamant about innocence.

Another instance of "the law is an ass".

Lisa does not need correcting, you needed factual information.

J Jones
2 months 2 weeks ago

Phillip, fyi. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/28/robert-richter-apologises-for-describing-george-pells-abuse-as-vanilla-sex

Dr Robert Dyson
2 months 2 weeks ago

"My understanding, but I could be wrong, is the first trial ended with a hung jury, one juror voting for guilt."

How many times, nowadays, can one be tried for the same offence? Is there no longer a double jeopardy rule?

Frank Elliott
2 months 3 weeks ago

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.
Cistercian abbot and papal legat
Arnaud Amalric

Dr Robert Dyson
2 months 2 weeks ago

What has this to do with the matter under discussion, and whom do you want to see slain? If your point is that conviction or acquittal don't really matter because at least the Lord knows the truth, I can only observe that this is probably cold comfort to those whose lives and reputations are destroyed by wrongful convictions.

joseph mulligan
2 months 3 weeks ago

In 1962 the great German theologian Karl Rahner, SJ, in a homily during the first Mass of a newly ordained priest, presented some reflections which seem appropriate in relation to today’s moral crisis in the Church.
“A priest is no angel sent from heaven. A priest is a human being, a member of holy Church, a Christian, just as you are. As Scripture says, he is chosen from among men. [The latter is a reference to the Jewish high priest as described in the epistle to the Hebrews: “Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness” (Hebrews 5:1-2)]. This is less obvious than it seems; for it means that we priests are just as human as you are -- poor, dejected, weak, sinful men….

“The like of these God has called to serve the altar in your holy community. And when the bishop lays his hand on them in blessing he gives them a new authority; he promises them, through this holy sacrament, the graces necessary for validly, worthily exercising this holy office; only he does not turn them into angels. They are still men. And this grace that is given them is grace in human weakness. Grace in the midst of human sinfulness….

“I ask you today, on this day: do you really accept that we are such men…, men like yourselves, men in need of God's mercy who stand at the altar beating our breasts in no mere liturgical gesture and saying: Forgive us our fault, our fault, our most grievous fault. God knows we know that time and again, as priests that stand at the altar, we cut you off from God's light with all our wretchedness. And we are not omniscient. The darkness of this world darkens our minds too…. We priests are men; we remain men, remain poor sinners….

“And though we do and must call the bishop, and to some extent the parish priest, the father of his community, when all is said and done we are simply your brothers. We can only beg you: Accept us with faith, confidence, and love as your brothers….”
(This material is taken from the book, SERVANTS OF THE LORD, by Karl Rahner (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968), pp. 72-74.)

Fr. Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ
Nicaragua

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you for that reminder of words of wisdom from Rahner, even though the liberals see him as a bad theologian.

On the last sentence, has NO Catholic besides me any reservation in going against the express command reported in the New Testament
"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven." Matthew 23:9
Call NO-ONE father.

Bishop, Pastor, Reverend, Minister, Parson, Cleric and many others are available.

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Vatican bears responsibility for their "pain" over the conviction .... Pope Francis was well aware of the decades of rumors about Pell and sex abuse in Australia and of his treatment of abuse victims. His own sex abuse commission told him not to hire Pell for his Vatican positions but he wouldn't listen.

Sharon Lindenburger
2 months 3 weeks ago

Laicize this guy. He has been found guilty in a duly convened court of law. Suspending him from ministry is not enough, nor should we have to wait until the results of an appeal. Laicize him NOW. If the appeal does find contrary evidence that leads to an acquittal, then the Vatican can unlaicize him, but right now he should be in the same boat as McCarrick. We need a zero tolerance policy. For all intents and purposes, this man has been found guilty by a jury of his peers, and hopefully will face prison time. It is not for the Vatican to be all warm and fuzzy by saying it's waiting for the appeal. The law has spoken. Get rid of this guy from the priesthood NOW.

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

Do you not entertain a tiny sliver of doubt?
Do you realise that Philip Wilson and George Pell were both pioneers in the response of the Catholic hierarchy in Australia to the early revelations of covered-up clerical sexual abuse?
The official action, the Melbourne Response, was the FIRST OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD.
Do you realise that 70% of the public in Australia, goaded by the mainstream media, were already calling for his blood and that senior educators in the Catholic Church resigned when he was appointed over Catholic educators and in his first address declared that they must teach the full gospel including the supernatural.

J Jones
2 months 3 weeks ago

Phillip --- how is it possible you do not understand that pedophiles come in every stripe and color and shape? Just as do rapists and thiefs and liars and violent offenders and cheats and and and and.

The belief that Pell's good works make it impossible for Pell to have committed crimes is the cultural myth that has allowed the commission of horrific crimes in near broad daylight by individuals, churches, companies, nations. Ask any rape victim who is the child or spouse of a beloved doctor or respected military officer or long-serving politician or...... How about ask the victims of once-much beloved Cardinal McCarrick how it works.....

Read carefully for statements by Pell's own defense attorneys. They do not deny the event occured; they minimize and re-categorize it. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/02/26/australia/pell-sex-abuse-conviction-appeal-intl/index.html

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

After a professional lifetime of dealing with abused wives, abused and neglected children, sexually abused minors and vulnerable people I have no need of your supercilious counsel.
I have reported, and pressed the case, of parish priests offending against minors and one who impregnated a parishioner. I hold no brief for sex offenders and have no fear of speaking truth to power.
At least one monk is in gaol and will die there, unless he lives to great age. Three of the others belonged to Orders, one Passionist who feigned senility and was deemed unfit to plead, and the other was an Augustinian priest who was moved beyond our tracing and one was a Scalabrian priest who was moved to be PP in another state and had access to primary and secondary school children. I persevered until I was assured by the Provincial of his order that he had removed him from all pastoral work and access to minors.

Pell is accused of penetrative sex straight after Mass while still robed, part of the robe being neck to ankle without a horizontal or vertical slit in the fabric. These people were lying.

People do lie, often. All sorts of people. All ages and both sexes.

J Jones
2 months 3 weeks ago

Phillip, it certainly sounds as if you are well-informed enough to know that nothing about an individual's public or private behavior, public or private character precludes the fact that the individual may also be a pedophile. Safety of children is dependent on unwavering clarity about that reality. Your first comment erroneously suggested that Pell's public behavior is an argument in favor of his innocence.

Lisa M
2 months 3 weeks ago

J- I agree with that 100%.

J. Calpezzo
2 months 3 weeks ago

What Roger Mahony did was much worse.

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

"When Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, "Catholic Lite" was the order of the day throughout the country, with the usual results: goofball liturgy (one bishop celebrated Mass made up as a clown); dumbed-down catechesis; a collapse in religious vocations and seminary applications; the Church bureaucracy joined at the hip to the hard left in Australian public life.

Reversing this drift toward theological and moral incoherence and public irrelevance was going to be very hard work. Then Pell caught a break: when his seminary faculty threatened to resign en masse because he insisted that the seminarians attend daily Mass, Pell called their bluff, accepted their resignations, filled the seminary with new faculty - and never looked back. "

Insisting on routine daily Eucharist for seminarians, shocking!
Just your typical pedophile, eh?

Lisa M
2 months 3 weeks ago

Phillip- The only child pedophile priest I knew was very, very conservative. Like all pedophiles, they come in all religious persuasions, whether by genuine belief or cover. Surely catholics can be unified on this one issue and not feel the need to politicize it. Of course one must be certain of guilt, but believing in their guilt or innocence should have nothing to do with their beliefs.

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

I know many more sex offenders, clerical and non-clerical than you do.

This is already high political. Not by Pell nor by Australian Catholics. You can find news report of how it was co-ordinated internationally.

Pell denied Holy Communion to people who presented themselves for it wearing the Rainbow sash as a deliberate confrontation to his public stance on the sinfulness of homosexual sex acts. In both Sydney and Melbourne.
All the organs of the Leftist press had been alerted beforehand and joined in the conspiracy of vilification which was planned by the homosexual lobby in Australia and they have hounded him mercilessly ever after.
Google it, read the huge amount of abuse, calumny and detraction.

J Jones
2 months 3 weeks ago

Phillip, you muddied your argument that Pell was targeted by repeatedly insisting that Pell's public conduct is inconsistent with ALSO being a pedophile. That is erroneous and it is dangerous, especially if you have the professional expertise you claim.

The very nature of the pedophile and dynamic of pedophilic acts makes the pedophile the quintessential example of a wolf in sheep's clothing

You are muddying your own argument by repeating the pedophile's favorite cover.

Lisa M
2 months 3 weeks ago

Phillip- I am certainly troubled by Pell's conviction, and hope everyone is willing to keep an open mind, and heart, to ensure the truth prevails.. I argue that his persona however, should not be a factor in one's belief in guilt or innocence. The priest I knew claimed to be pro life and apparently spoke out against homosexuality. He was disliked by some in the parish for his conservative positions. He raped numerous young boys. I can't reconcile any of it, so I think the only position to take is that those choosing to abuse our children work very, very hard, and I'm sure with great pride and pleasure, to 'play' the adults around them in order to access the children they want to abuse. Their facade is all part of that.
That said, the circumstances surrounding Pell's charges and conviction must all be taken into account.

J Jones
2 months 3 weeks ago

Yep, just your typical pedophile. Aka "wolf in sheep's clothing".

His own defense attorneys do not deny the event happened. They minimize it (a "plain vanilla" assault) and deny that the then-new prince of the RCC violated trust (he wasn't in charge of the boys that day; he was just visiting that specific location). https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/02/26/australia/pell-sex-abuse-conviction-appeal-intl/index.html

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

Interesting how different some are reacting to Pell's guilty verdict than they did to the news about McCarrick. Conservatives sticking together.

M H
2 months 3 weeks ago

From the standpoint of justice, which should be the sole yardstick here, what counts is that this man is at last behind bars. (His counsel withdrew its bail request, and Pell will be detained pending sentencing.) He is welcome to try, but I doubt that his appeals will succeed.

The Vatican can feel what it wants and do what it wants. The fact is that the Church hierarchy has *never* taken action until forced to do so by secular law enforcement. I sincerely hope that every bishop, archbishop, and cardinal is shaking in his shoes tonight.

CHARLES COLLINS FR
2 months 3 weeks ago

What canonical investigative action has taken place? Has “the Church” determined that there is credible & substantiated evidence the Pell sexually abused? If so why is he not returned to the lay state?

Phillip Stone
2 months 3 weeks ago

The court of public opinion has been hounding after Pell for years.
Church examination of allegations were done, he stood down pending the result of their very, very thorough investigations and he was cleared of all allegations. One liar claimed he was molested in Australia while Pell was in Rome, had been in Rome for some time and was still in Rome a long time later.

CHARLES COLLINS FR
2 months 3 weeks ago

What canonical investigative action has taken place? Has “the Church” determined that there is credible & substantiated evidence the Pell sexually abused? If so why is he not returned to the lay state?

Frank Elliott
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Catholic right will defend him just as they defended the child sex trafficker and founder of the Legionaries of Christ Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Frank Elliott
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Catholic right will defend him just as they defended the child sex trafficker and founder of the Legionaries of Christ Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Frank Elliott
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Catholic right will defend him just as they defended the child sex trafficker and founder of the Legionaries of Christ Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Dr Robert Dyson
2 months 2 weeks ago

He has the right to defend himself? Darn right he does! The following is, I think, a pertinent synopsis:

He - the Archbishop! - went into the sacristy alone immediately after Mass, unaccompanied by any attendants, fellow clergy or altar servers and without any of the customary flesh-pressing at the Cathedral door; immediately after Mass he would have been wearing a cassock, an alb and cincture over it, and a chasuble on top of that (none of which opens down the front or is easily and quickly removed); presumably the boy who was 'penetrated' was fully clothed also; the assault was perpetrated against two boys in the presence of each other (each of whom would therefore be a witness to the assault on the other); the whole thing was over in a few minutes; and took place in a room with the door open.

Am I alone in thinking this a cock and bull story? I am by disposition a sceptic, but this seems to me a thoroughly unsafe conviction. Could it be that what we have here are two naughty boys who got torn off a mighty strip for pinching the altar wine, decided to tell a juicy lie by way of payback and then found that they had woven a web too tangled to get out of? It seems, however, that a lot of people want to believe in the Cardinal's guilt, and are even gloating over it. Charitable? I think not.

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