Vatican issues statement after Australian court dismisses Cardinal Pell’s appeal

Cardinal George Pell leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, Oct. 6, 2017. Yesterday, an Australian appeals court upheld the conviction of Cardinal Pell on five counts of sexually assaulting two boys more than two decades ago. (CNS photo//Mark Dadswell, Reuters)

The Vatican issued a low-key, carefully worded statement following the decision of the Victoria Court of Appeal in Australia to dismiss Cardinal George Pell’s appeal to have his conviction for the sexual abuse of two boys in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the mid-1990s overturned.The statement was given by Matteo Bruni, the new director of the Holy See Press Office, early Wednesday morning, Aug. 21, and focused on three points: the Australian judicial system, Cardinal Pell and the victims of sexual abuse.

The Court of Appeal judges described the survivor on whose testimony Pell was convicted as “a very compelling witness, [who] was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist, and was a witness of truth.”

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It began by reiterating the Holy See’s “respect for the Australian judicial system,” as it did on February 26 after the first instance verdict was announced, and noting that the Holy See “acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal.”This was in reference to the 2-1 decision by three judges of the Court of Appeal to dismiss the cardinal’s appeal to overturn his conviction on the grounds that the conviction was “unreasonable” and could not be supported by the evidence. In a summary statement read by the chief justice and livestreamed internationally, the judges described the survivor on whose testimony Pell was convicted as “a very compelling witness, [who] was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist, and was a witness of truth.”

The three judges voted unanimously to reject two other grounds of appeal. The first regarded the refusal of the judge in the original trial to allow a video animation of events in the cathedral to be shown in the closing phase of that trial. The second regarded the court’s decision in that trial to have the cardinal testify by video link rather than in person before the jury.

A right to appeal

The second part of the Vatican statement focused on Cardinal Pell. It recalled that “the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process” and affirmed “that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.” It did so as the cardinal’s legal advisors examine the reasons for the Court of Appeal’s decision and consider making an appeal to the High Court, which is the final possibility in the Australian judicial system for a reversal of his conviction.

The 78-year old cardinal was present in the Melbourne court room for the reading of a summary of the verdict and looked frail according to persons present. After the summary statement was read, Cardinal Pell was sent back to prison to serve a six-year sentence. If the Australian High Court does not reverse his conviction, he will not be eligible for parole until Oct. 2022.

Cardinal Pell was sent back to prison to serve a six-year sentence. If the Australian High Court does not reverse his conviction, he will not be eligible for parole until Oct. 2022.

Solidarity with victims

The Vatican statement concluded “at this time, together with the Church in Australia, the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse.” This paragraph can be read not just as an expression of solidarity with victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Australia, but also as an allusion to the decision of Pope Francis earlier this year to order a Vatican investigation into the allegations of abuse of minors by Cardinal Pell. This investigation is underway, but the Vatican has not disclosed any other information about it. Sources say investigators expect to hear from all the victims and complainants of sexual abuse by the cardinal, and also to consider documentation from the Australian judicial process that has been made public. If that investigation shows that there is credible evidence that Cardinal Pell has abused minors, then the matter would be referred directly to Pope Francis—who could decide to remove the Australian prelate from the college of cardinals and from the priesthood.

Pope Francis earlier this year ordered a Vatican investigation into the allegations of abuse of minors by Cardinal Pell.

Reactions

The Vatican news media carried reactions from members of the Australian church, beginning with a spokesperson for the cardinal who issued a statement after the verdict that “Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision.” It noted that his legal team will be examining the judgment of the Court of Appeal “to determine a special-leave application to the High Court.” (The High Court is not required to hear an appeal.) It reiterated that the cardinal “maintains his innocence.”

Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, issued a statement saying that “[t]he Catholic Bishops of Australia believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly.”

Cardinal Pell served as archbishop of the archdioceses of both Melbourne and Sydney at different times, and both his successors gave their reactions to today’s verdict. Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli acknowledged that the long judicial process of Cardinal Pell has been a difficult moment for the survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. He noted also that the court’s verdict “will be distressing to many people” but said he “respectfully” received that decision and urged others to do likewise. He acknowledged “the complexity of the search for truth” and said his “thoughts and prayers are with the man who brought this matter before the courts.” He expressed his readiness to provide “pastoral and spiritual help” to the plaintiff, and he gave assurance too that Cardinal Pell would be provided with “pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence.”

Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher noted in his statement that the judges’ 2-1 split decision “is consistent with the different views of the juries in the first and second trials, as well as the divided opinion amongst legal commentators and the general public.” He encouraged everyone “to maintain calm and civility” and committed himself and the archdiocese of Sydney to do everything possible “to ensure that past crimes are never repeated and that Church environments are the safest possible for children and vulnerable adults.”

Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference: “The Catholic Bishops of Australia believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly.”

Victim’s statement

Australian media carried a statement from the survivor/victim whose testimony led to the cardinal’s conviction and whose identity has not been revealed. In the first part of his statement, issued through his pro bono lawyer, he said “I am relieved at the decision of the Court of Appeal. It is four years since I reported to the police. The criminal process has been stressful. The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from.”

“The justice machine rolls on with all of its processes and punditry, almost forgetting about the people at the heart of the matter. Despite this, I appreciate that the criminal process afforded Pell every opportunity to challenge the charges and to be heard,” he added. “I am glad he had the best legal representation money can buy. There are a lot of checks and balances in the criminal justice system and the appeal process is one of them. I just hope that it is all over now.”

He recalled that “some commentators have suggested that I reported to the police somehow for my own personal gain. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have risked my privacy, my health, my wellbeing, my family. I have not instructed any solicitor in relation to a claim for compensation. This is not about money and never has been.”

He also denied “that I am somehow out to cause damage to the Catholic Church,” noting that “I'm not on a mission to do anybody any harm. Although my faith has taken a battering it is still a part of my life, and part of the lives of my loved ones.”

He concluded his lengthy statement by noting “I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everybody is equal before the law and no one is above the law.”

Cardinal Pell (along with others) will have to return to court next year to face a case for civil damages brought by other victims of alleged sexual abuse.

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Tim O'Leary
3 months ago

Shocking result. The split 2:1 decision only maintains the sense that justice and the presumption of innocence took second place to the political/social need for a guilty scapegoat. Justice Mark Weinberg's view that the claim as described was "impossible to accept” is the only one I can honestly see, although I have not seen the evidence as he and the others have, including the 2 disparate jury results. The words of the anonymous accuser seem heartfelt, although we can't know if they were written by him or his legal team. Cardinal Pell's claim of innocence is similarly heartfelt and consistent. Both men will face the final ruling on Judgment day. If Cardinal Pell is, in the eyes of God, as innocent as I think he is, this tragedy can be part of his sanctification. But, it puts Pope Francis and all those concerned for justice and ending the scourge of child abuse in a terrible dilemma. If the Vatican's investigational court cannot be convinced of the Cardinal's guilt, do they have the courage to resist the expectations of a voracious media for Pell's head? Truth may still out in the next few years, if one side comes forward with a confession of lying. I pray God will give that person the grace to confess before their death.

Paul Mclaughlin
3 months ago

I think Pell should relinquish his title as Cardinal. The 2:1 vote is immaterial. He lost the appeal. So he is down 0 for 2. Yes, he has one more step to go, but at some point he needs to look beyond his views and say - I don’t want to dirty the waters any longer, so I will give up my right to vote for the next Pope, now. He can still hold on to his Bishop’s hat and ring, for now.

Tim O'Leary
3 months ago

Paul - Your tone is, at best, uncaring of the truth of the matter, and, at worst, schadenfreude. Yes, the 2:1 vote is procedurally the same as 3:0 and the credibility of the evidence is immaterial to those who rank process higher than justice. But, since judicial exonerations have occurred years later, a conviction does not always equate with justice. We get a story nearly every month of someone being exonerated years after a conviction, like Mark Denny in NY this month (after 30 years in jail - link below). In any case, Cardinal Pell is 78 and loses his vote when he reaches 80. So, be careful your disregard of the truth doesn't boomerang on your final judgment.
https://www.essence.com/news/mark-denny-rape-settlement-nyc/

Vincent Couling
3 months ago

O'Leary is utterly disgraceful in his comments! O'Leary's axiom (i.e. what he presumes to be "self-evident truth") is that Pell is innocent, Pell is incapable of ever sexually abusing a child. And so, for O'Leary, "justice and the presumption of innocence took second place to the political/social need for a guilty scapegoat," and those who accept the court's verdict are "uncaring of the truth of the matter". How profoundly sad.

As Michael Sean Winters observes in the NCR: "This case, like that of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has left Pell's friends reeling. Many of them could not bring themselves to believe what 12 jurors found credible. Perhaps they never will.

After the trial concluded last February, Pell's longtime friend George Weigel claimed that it is the Australian criminal justice system that is on trial and not the cardinal, because "the case against Pell has been fraught with implausibility and worse from the outset." Weigel failed to note that he was not present for the trial in its entirety and even if he were, in the Australian system, the press is not permitted to see all the evidence: Only the jury, the judge and counsel see all the evidence. Now we can add the appellate judges, who saw videotapes of the testimony none of the rest of us saw. The cardinal or his lawyers told Weigel all about it though, and he trusts them completely. In this regard, Pell is lucky: We should all have such a loyal friend as Weigel.

Weigel is not alone. EWTN — both on its "Nightly News" program and on Raymond Arroyo's show featured Australians who insisted Pell was innocent and that the public animus against the Catholic faith was such that the guilty verdict was as inevitable as it was unjust. LifeSiteNews editor John-Henry Westen called for a novena for the "spiritual and temporal welfare and intentions of His Eminence George Cardinal Pell."

I hope Pell never did the things he was accused of, but the incredulity of his friends is rooted in their belief that the primary cause of clergy sexual abuse is a lack of fidelity. If someone believes what the church teaches about sex and acts on it, then there would be no sex abuse. But, then, if everyone were faithful to the Gospel there would be no theft, no coercion, no war, no malice. In some sense, obviously, a lack of fidelity is involved in clergy sex abuse — as it is in all human sinfulness — but it lacks explanatory value and, in the Pell case, it is no reason to cast aspersions on the Australian judicial system. That system is rated as the 11th best in the world on the Rule of Law index. The U.S. ranks 20th. Australia is not Somalia.

Surely it has dawned on Pell's defenders that many of the characteristics they admire in Pell — his ostentatious orthodoxy, his undoubted vigor, his commitment to the ecclesial vision of Pope St. John Paul II, his willingness to publicly dismiss critics and those who are less enamored of muscular Catholicism than he is — all of those traits were evident in the life of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, too.

Conservative Catholics were quick to embrace the charges leveled against McCarrick, even without a trial verdict. Weigel, for example, never gave the benefit of the doubt to McCarrick whom he acknowledged as guilty of "serial sexual depredations." Why accept the allegations against McCarrick so readily, while maintaining Pell's innocence?

None of us knows with absolute certainty what happened between Pell and the young man who has alleged Pell abused him. It is crushing to think that someone you once admired did something so evil as abuse a child. Pell's friends are experiencing now what McCarrick's friends experienced last year: first, the self-questioning about why the evil was not detected, followed by uncertainty in the soul that the failure to see it makes one complicit. These emotional responses do not make sense, but they happen anyway.

What we have learned as a church is that child abuse was perpetrated by those who are conservative as well as those who are liberal, by those who rose through the ranks of the hierarchy and those who stayed as parish priests, by tall priests and short, by skinny and obese, that the illness afflicted many priests in many different situations. We have learned, too, what steps must be taken to protect children, and what steps must be taken to end the culture of cover-up that allowed the cancer to fester for so long.

My heart goes out to Pell's friends, but they must come to terms with reality: It is virtually impossible, now, to believe that Pell was entirely innocent of the allegations leveled against him. That is not an indictment of his ecclesiology. It takes away nothing of his accomplishments. But, the same could be said of McCarrick. The hypocrisy of treating these two men differently must stop." https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/distinctly-catholic/pell-verdict-various-shades-justice

Tim O'Leary
3 months ago

Vincent - you make several presumptions in your response that show you didn't read my post carefully. I do not think it is inconceivable that faithful priests could commit sexual abuse. I do not think that it is inconceivable that Pell abused someone in some place or time. I do not believe my opinion is "axiomatic" (which has a specific meaning). McCarrick's accusation came out with multiple bits of evidence - totally different. I do believe that the specifics of the accusation as described by the Australian courts, and the context of the claims make this an impossible event. Perhaps, some actual evidence will surface in coming months or years that will make the story credible - maybe, the guilty part will confess to avoid the fires of hell; maybe we will find out that the vestments were altered by an accomplice to make it possible to do the act; maybe we will find out that the abuse occurred in a different church, at a different time, by a different priest. Maybe, some contemporaneous evidence will surface (a note, some other witnesses, etc.). I am utterly amazed of your gullibility in accepting this hotly disputed verdict, or in your cavalier disregard for the opinion of Judge Weinberg, who saw all the evidence along with the other two. Shouldn't the justice system set someone free if the decision is not unanimous? From a link below Weinberg said the fact that he came to different conclusions from Ferguson and Maxwell led him to think even more about the appeal.
"I am troubled by the fact that I find myself constrained to differ from two of my colleagues whose opinions I always respect greatly," he wrote.
"That has caused me to reflect even more carefully upon the proper outcome of this application. Having done so, however, I cannot, in good conscience, do other than to maintain my dissent."
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/dissenting-judge-in-cdl-pells-appeal-evidence-should-lead-inevitably-to-acquittal

Vince Killoran
3 months ago

It's strange that you have it all figured out even though, as you note, "I have not seen the evidence as he and the others have." There is no evidence that the judicial proceedings were corrupt or irregular.

Tim O'Leary
3 months ago

Vince - I was careless in using the term "evidence" because there was none at all. We have a single accuser and 1 of 2 juries and 2 of 3 judges found him credible, and the event "possible" whereas the others found it "impossible." Pell has been imprisoned based on no physical evidence, no corroborating evidence, an actual contradicting witness, on a charge FIRST brought in 2015 (in response to an advert looking for a crime to hang on a hated public figure), for an event claimed in the 1990s, after the sole witness was dead. And, the chief judge (and MS Winters) assures us that sexual abuse does not have a third witness and is done in a secret place!

I do not claim that it is inconceivable Pell abused this accuser or others in some other time and place, no more than it is inconceivable that Couling or Killoran or Watson did (I can only be certain I did not). But any crime has to be at least possible and, as currently described, it is not.

Keep in mind the contradictions of the accuser (the sole witness) and imagine the scene - a newly elevated Archbishop, who had just brought in reforms to address child abuse, a stickler for liturgical decorum, inexplicitly has a lapse of habit and an uncontrollable urge, in the middle of a busy morning (his first Mass in his Cathedral). He dashes away from his helpers into the sacristy, keeping the door wide open. He manages to whip his long and unruly vestment over his head or up half his body, all the while people could be walking in and out. He has time and energy for forced oral sex with two boys (not once, but twice!), then a quick slip back on of the vestment, a regaining of his composure, tidying his clothes, and finally, a rush back to greet the congregation and his attendants, who were patiently and incuriously waiting for him. Oh, and the 2 choir boys go back to rehearsal and never speak about it for decades to come. And one denies anything happened to his mother when pressed (years later). All in 6-8 minutes. Sounds more like a macabre Monthy Python act or something from a dreadful porn circus. Preposterous.

Crystal Watson
3 months ago

I find it hard to believe the Vatican's statement that it is close to the victims. Pope Francis knew of Pell's negative history with sex abuse victims when he hired him to work at the Vatican. The Pope also ignored the advice of his own sex abuse commission to *not* hire Pell, and did it anyway. This verdict has been a long time coming. Maybe now some of the Australian victims, those that have survived, can feel some peace.

J Jones
3 months ago

An interesting discussion by Michael Sean Winter.
ttps://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/distinctly-catholic/pell-verdict-various-shades-justice

Tim O'Leary
3 months ago

I read Michael Sean Winters account. He says he hopes that "Pell never did the things he was accused of" and that "We must hope that an innocent man has not been wrongly convicted." But, he makes at least 3 misstatements.
1) He notes in agreement "cases of sexual abuse rarely have a corroborating witness. That is not how sex abuse works. The perpetrator always tries to conceal the crime." But, that is exactly why this case is so incredible. a) There was a witness - the other boy! who contradicted the sole accuser. b) the timing and place of the claimed abuse goes against the idea that a perpetrator would try to conceal his crime.
2) He likens this to the McCarrick and Maciel cases - when it is nothing at all like them, in terms of evidence like grooming periods, written notes, beach houses, multiple people, etc. It seems the defenders of Pell are perplexed by the lack of evidence, and the impossibility of the claimed story whereas the accusers of Pell believe a conviction in court and the appearance of a process is equivalent to the truth.
3) He says the judges said so and so, without saying that 2 of 3 said so and so. Sloppy.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 4 weeks ago

Those who have judged Cardinal Pell (inside and outside the courtroom) to have a pedophile sexual orientation based on 6-8 minutes of alleged activity and have labeled me “disgraceful” for not accepting this ridiculous split decision need to add Judge Mark Weinberg, John Allen, Madeleine Kearns, Matthew Schmitz, Fr. De Souza and agnostic Australian Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt to their “disgraceful” list for judging the result a farce. Is it only in Australia that an imprisoned priest is prohibited from saying Mass in jail? Why?

Judge Mark Weinberg (200 page-long dissent) was the only judge on the panel with substantial criminal law experience and he has written extensively on sexual assault cases, including what entails the burden of proof in cases of historic sexual abuse involving a single complainant. The other two judges have backgrounds almost exclusively in commercial law. What rot.

Andrew Bolt: “Now hope for Pell is gone – along with my trust in justice.”

John Allen: “There’s a sizeable swath of Catholic opinion, encompassing both historic friends of Pell and enemies, which regards the charges upon which he was convicted as deeply implausible.”

Fr. De Souza: “If that is not enough to establish reasonable doubt — at the very least, if not absolute exoneration — then it is hard to imagine any sexual-abuse case where reasonable doubt could be established.”

Madeleine Kearns: “The stubborn questions remain. Beyond his accuser’s account, what evidence was presented against Pell? Where were the facts, established and proven beyond reasonable doubt? Like the blindfolded Lady Justice, they are, in this strange case, unnervingly absent.”

Matthew Schmitz, Catholic writer– “It is a shameful day. The conviction of Pell is an outrage—not because he is a cardinal of the Catholic Church, but because the case against him was not proved, and could not be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Weinberg https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/leaders/george-pell-s-new-best-friend-dissenting-judge-mark-weinberg-20190823-p52k0u
Andrew Bolt https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/he-looks-grim-andrew-bolt-says-the-outvoted-judge-in-george-pells-appeal-focused-on-evidence/news-story/05622a6ae8056a816af7a93f072764cb and https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/andrew-bolt
John Allen https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2019/08/22/aussie-headaches-on-pell-case-could-be-childs-play-compared-to-romes
Fr. De Souza: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/ring-of-truth-enough-to-keep-cardinal-pell-in-prison
Madeleine Kearns https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/08/cardinal-george-pell-strange-case-against-him
Matthew Schmitz: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2019/08/cardinal-pell-scapegoat.

Rafal Gallagher
2 months 3 weeks ago

Wether you like it or not, pedophile goes to jail, Church is cleaning itself from the inside, and the world is a little bit better place.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Why is it good for anybody but Christophobics that Cardinal Pell cannot say Mass in his cell? He could at least pray for his enemies, who so need prayers right now. Some hope from an authoritative source - Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of law at the University of Notre Dame & a former assistant district attorney in New York County, New York (link below). "One small mercy of this unwelcome appellate setback is that I am now certain that Cardinal Pell is innocent. Another consolation is that the appellate decision supplies reasonable grounds to hope that the High Court will finally correct this awful miscarriage of justice. The basis for affirming Cardinal Pell’s innocence lies in the evidence now recounted in extraordinary detail across the 325 pages of the appellate corpus."

Keep in mind that all experts say child sex abuse is conducted in a private place without witnesses. But this accuser insists the opposite - abuse with a flagrant disregard for secrecy. Judge Weinberg paid more attention to the alleged 2nd event than I did so far. He believes it is even more improbable and is itself alone sufficient for doubting the accuser's credibility in both alleged events: "the complainant’s account of the second incident seems to me to take brazenness to new heights, the like of which I have not seen. .​.. I would have thought that any prosecutor would be wary of bringing a charge of this gravity against anyone, based upon the implausible notion that a sexual assault of this kind would take place in public and in the presence of numerous potential witnesses. Had the incident occurred in the way that the complainant alleged, it seems to me highly unlikely that none of those many persons present would have seen what was happening, or reported it in some way.”

Weinberg complains that the other two judges looked solely on the sincerity of the accuser, as having a 'ring of truth', that no amount of sincerity of the accused's claim of innocence or contradictory evidence could remove the "reasonableness" from the second jury (even though it contradicted the 1st jury). This is so bizarre and a terrible blight on the judicial system in Victoria.
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-pells-unsuccessful-appeal-and-reason-for-hope

Colin Jory
2 months 3 weeks ago

Tim O’Leary, by the clarity of his reasoning and the thoroughness of his mustering of relevant facts and documents, has done outstandingly good service to truth and to justice in relation to the Pell saga, as also of course to Cardinal Pell himself. However, I think he is mistaken in one regard, and that is in his assumption that the Victorian Appeals Court’s 2-1 majority judgment reflected the same kind of anti-Pell animosity as manifestly did the jury decision in the second Pell trial. The prevailing two were Justices Fergusson and Maxwell; the dissenter was Justice Weinberg.

In Australia there is universal acceptance by media commentators who have read the judgments, be they Pell haters or justice-lovers, that the Weinberg judgment is by far the more impressive; and some media figures have gone further and stated outright what most have left unstated, which is that the majority judgment is ludicrous in its reasoning. There is an absolutely superb and thorough comparison of the two judgments by Paul Kelly (who considers himself to be an atheist) in last weekend’s edition of the newspaper The Australian – although to access it online one needs a subscription to the paper.

What was really at stake in the conflicting judgments Paul Kelly obliquely indicates in his concluding paragraph: “The split Victorian Court of Appeal judgment exposes a split over the law: are complainants about child sexual abuse to be accorded a higher status of believability despite evidence that would normally cast reasonable doubt? The Weinberg judgment raises the most serious questions about the test used not just in Pell’s conviction but about how the law is to be applied.” In Australia as elsewhere in the West the police, offices of public prosecutors, and the courts have been extensively shackled, perverted, and restricted by feminist-devised “gaol the male without fail” statutes and procedures intended to reverse the onus of proof where a male is accused of sexual abuse of a woman or of a minor, so that he is assumed to be guilty, and his accuser assumed to be a “victim” or “survivor”, unless he can prove his innocence.

The defence case for Cardinal Pell which Justice Weinberg accepted is based on the contention that thirteen conjectural happenings, each of which is highly or extremely improbable and thus realistically impossible, would all have had to occur together for the accusations against the Cardinal to hold true. The prosecution case which the Appeals Court majority accepted boils down to two propositions. One is that the complainant was so manifestly sincere and cogent that the Pell jury was entitled to regard his very demeanour as establishing, without need of corroborating evidence (of which there was none), that his allegations were true beyond reasonable doubt, except if an allegation was proved to have been literally impossible – that is, impossible in terms of the very laws of the universe. The second proposition was that each of the thirteen conjectural happenings which the defence pinpointed was not impossible, in that each could imaginably have occurred if certain extremely improbable enabling factors are assumed. This is what I call a “million monkeys” argument: the old argument that it is possible that a million monkeys tapping randomly on a million typewriters would sooner or later produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

The Appeals Court majority-two clearly realized that if they did not rule that it had been open to the Pell jury to find Pell guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” because there was a million-monkeys possibility that the allegations against him were individually true, they would be invalidating, by necessary effect, a plethora of anti-male laws and procedures which explicitly or implicitly reverse the onus of proof. They therefore decided, I propose, whether consciously or unconsciously, that the public interest required that they purport to have found the Pell jury verdict defensible. If I am right they didn’t hate Pell; they were not even out to appease the Pell-haters; in fact, they didn’t care about Pell. Rather, they regarded Pell as mere road-kill and “collateral damage” to be sacrificed for the Higher Good.

Both Appeals Court judgments can be downloaded from the Victorian Supreme Court site, at https://www.supremecourt.vic.gov.au/case-summaries/court-of-appeal-proceedings/george-pell-v-the-queen.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Colin - thanks for the detail and especially the links to the full Appeals Court Judgments.

Damien Wohlfahrt
2 months 3 weeks ago

As a Melbourne Australia observer of the Pell trial and the aftermath, I wish to make a few comments about the Australian legal system:
1. Australian police leaders, prosecutors and judges are non-political, career appointments. Judges are recommended by the legal fraternity. All the judges involved in Pell’s trials are very highly respected by their legal colleagues. Australians accept that their judges are completely independent and that the system is free from corruption.
2. The conduct of the trials has been scrupulously fair. Everything possible was done to prevent bias or Pell being scapegoated for the crimes of others. The specific charges against Pell were not publicly revealed until after he was convicted. No details of the trials were released while they were being held to prevent any public discussion that could pervert the course of justice. The findings of the recent Royal Commission into Child Abuse concerning Pell are still redacted until the Appeals process is completed.
3. Pell has been represented by Australia’s best and most experienced Defence lawyers.
4. The Appeals Court comprised the President of the Appeals Court, the Victorian Chief Justice, and a very highly experienced judge who many believe should have been appointed to the High Court. All are held in the highest regard in the legal profession. Each’s opinion is equally authoritative.
5. Regarding the first trial and the hung jury. The only people who know how the Jury voted are the 12 jury members themselves. The judges don’t know. All anyone else knows is that between 2 and 10 believed Pell to be either innocent or guilty.
6. The judgements in full of the 3 Appeal Judges are readily available online for all to read and analyse. To my reading, they are comprehensive, closely argued and clearly explain their thinking on every issue that outside critics raise about the case, as well as many other points that critics have not yet thought of. I personally have no difficulty accepting the majority decision. If, however, the High Court should ultimately overturn that decision, I won’t have difficulty accepting that either.

As a final observation, most of those who do not accept the Courts’ decisions simply cannot believe that such a crime could occur or that an offender could be so reckless. In Australia, we have recently experienced years of harrowing testimony at the Royal Commission of child abuse crimes committed by people in authority in Churches, Scouts, government institutions, schools, etc. Unfortunately, what Pell was accused of doing is depressingly ordinary. Many convicted Catholic clergy have done worse.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Damien - When you say Australia above, don't you mean the State of Victoria? Is it true that only in Victoria, is it accepted that a single witness (the accuser) is sufficient for a crime to be proven, without any corroborating evidence, with many contemporary conflicting witnesses? Is it only in Victoria that priests are prevented from saying Mass in prison? My understanding is that Judge Weinberg is Australia's most experienced in dealing with sexual abuse cases - is that true? I will read the materials Colin has linked to and may be back with more questions.

Damien Wohlfahrt
2 months 3 weeks ago

Tim - Implementing recommendations of the Victoria State Parliament Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the National Royal Commission, Victorian law was amended to remove any time limit on reporting, investigating, or prosecuting child sexual abuse allegations. The law was also amended to permit conviction on the uncorroborated evidence of a complainant. The standard for conviction remains the same: guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
I don’t know if all the other states and territories have similarly amended their laws. This change is not controversial in Australia.
The Appeals Court judgements describe the steps judges must take during trials to protect against unsafe convictions. Judge Kidd followed these steps scrupulously.
I read some where regarding the Mass issue that all prisoners are denied access to or use of alcohol and that no exceptions are made for clergy. It’s hard to say Mass without wine. All prisoners of course are able to attend the Masses celebrated by the chaplains. I have no idea what the rules are in other states.
Justice Weinberg is a very experienced and highly regarded judge who specialised in criminal law. I can’t make any comment one way or another regarding experience vs others vis a vis sexual abuse crimes

Damien Wohlfahrt
2 months 3 weeks ago

As a Melbourne Australia observer of the Pell trial and the aftermath, I wish to make a few comments about the Australian legal system:
1. Australian police leaders, prosecutors and judges are non-political, career appointments. Judges are recommended by the legal fraternity. All the judges involved in Pell’s trials are very highly respected by their legal colleagues. Australians accept that their judges are completely independent and that the system is free from corruption.
2. The conduct of the trials has been scrupulously fair. Everything possible was done to prevent bias or Pell being scapegoated for the crimes of others. The specific charges against Pell were not publicly revealed until after he was convicted. No details of the trials were released while they were being held to prevent any public discussion that could pervert the course of justice. The findings of the recent Royal Commission into Child Abuse concerning Pell are still redacted until the Appeals process is completed.
3. Pell has been represented by Australia’s best and most experienced Defence lawyers.
4. The Appeals Court comprised the President of the Appeals Court, the Victorian Chief Justice, and a very highly experienced judge who many believe should have been appointed to the High Court. All are held in the highest regard in the legal profession. Each’s opinion is equally authoritative.
5. Regarding the first trial and the hung jury. The only people who know how the Jury voted are the 12 jury members themselves. The judges don’t know. All anyone else knows is that between 2 and 10 believed Pell to be either innocent or guilty.
6. The judgements in full of the 3 Appeal Judges are readily available online for all to read and analyse. To my reading, they are comprehensive, closely argued and clearly explain their thinking on every issue that outside critics raise about the case, as well as many other points that critics have not yet thought of. I personally have no difficulty accepting the majority decision. If, however, the High Court should ultimately overturn that decision, I won’t have difficulty accepting that either.

As a final observation, most of those who do not accept the Courts’ decisions simply cannot believe that such a crime could occur or that an offender could be so reckless. In Australia, we have recently experienced years of harrowing testimony at the Royal Commission of child abuse crimes committed by people in authority in Churches, Scouts, government institutions, schools, etc. Unfortunately, what Pell was accused of doing is depressingly ordinary. Many convicted Catholic clergy have done worse.

Christopher Lochner
2 months 2 weeks ago

https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2019/08/21/ruling-cements-pells-profile-as-the-alfred-dreyfus-of-the-catholic-abuse-crisis/
The above piece reflects the nature of the opinions which I read on this site and discuss with others.

Robert Lewis
2 months 2 weeks ago

I have read that the case against Pell has been coloured by reports of other episodes of sexual abuse of minors from earlier in his clerical career--of incidents in such places as swimming pools. I do, however, agree that such stories should not have been considered in such a way as to influence this particular criminal case.

Damien Wohlfahrt
2 months 2 weeks ago

In 2017 Pell was charged with a number of offences: the charges regarding the incident in St Patrick’s Cathedral and incidents at a Ballarat Swimming Pool. The total number of charges and their specific nature were not publicly revealed.
In May 2018, there was a preliminary hearing at which the presiding magistrate determined whether there was sufficient evidence to stand trial and whether the evidence was strong enough for a conviction to result from a full trial. At this preliminary hearing, the witnesses gave their evidence and were cross examined at length by Pell’s Defence lawyer.
A suppression order on the proceedings ensured that nothing appeared publicly that could bias
any subsequent trial.
At the end of the committal hearing, the magistrate ordered Pell to stand trial on the St Patrick’s charges and some of the Ballarat swimming pool charges. She dismissed some of the swimming pool charges because she ruled that the evidence wasn’t strong enough. Because the two sets of charges were completely separate in nature and timing (Ballarat in the 1970s and St Patrick’s in 1996/7), the charges were split into two trials.
The only information that the public had was that Pell had been committed to stand two trials for a number of indecent assault offences. That was the only information that the two juries could have known about the swimming pool offences. In addition, the second jury had no knowledge that there had been an earlier mistrial.
The St Patrick’s charges went to trial first, which resulted in Pell’s conviction. A suppression order on all details of that trial was to be in place until the conclusion of the swimming pool trial to prevent the swimming pool jury being influenced by the results of the first trial.
The swimming pool trial was due to commence in March, however it was abandoned following a pre-trial directions hearing because one of the complainants had died and because Judge Kidd ruled that some of the evidence presented at the committal hearing could not be used in the full trial. The Prosecutor decided that the remaining evidence was not strong enough to justify a trial.
It has still not been publicly released what the specific swimming pool charges were.
The suppression order on the first trial was only lifted after the second trial was abandoned.
It is possible, but highly unlikely that knowledge of their being other charges influenced the St Patrick’s jury. A swimming pool trial would have had a much greater risk of contamination because a number of US publications defied the suppression order.

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