Cardinal Pell’s appeal of abuse conviction to be heard in March

Australian Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, Oct. 6, 2017. His lawyers will present an appeal of his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys to the High Court of Australia March 11-12. (CNS photo/Mark Dadswell, Reuters) 

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Cardinal George Pell will have his last chance to have his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year old choirboys overturned when his lawyers plead his case to the High Court of Australia March 11-12.

But the full bench of Australia's highest court -- either five or all seven justices -- will take several months, at least, to determine the fate of the former senior adviser to Pope Francis.

Advertisement

In the meantime, Australia's most senior Catholic will remain, as he has been since his March 2019 sentencing, in virtual solitary confinement in a provincial prison.

If the High Court fails to overturn the verdict of a 12-person jury that found him guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of child rape, Pell, 78, will spend at least 32 more months in prison.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

That's the remainder of his minimum three years and eight months, of a six-year sentence, handed down by Chief Justice Peter Kidd of the Victorian Supreme Court, who described Pell's offenses as "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims."

The first appeal by Cardinal Pell was dismissed 2-1 by a panel of judges of the Victorian Supreme Court in August.

Once the court proceedings conclude, Vatican officials have said they will proceed with an investigation of the prelate who has been the most powerful figure in the Australian Catholic Church for more than two decades.

Senior Australian lawyers, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case, told Catholic News Service that the High Court has rarely overturned jury convictions. The historical rate of overturning jury decisions by the top court is 13%.

Cardinal Pell's case has generated global publicity and particularly in Australia where a landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse was critical of the Catholic Church in its findings.

Critics of Pell's convictions, including outspoken senior Catholic lawyers, politicians and conservative commentators, claim he is the victim of a witch hunt against the church

Regardless of the High Court's decision, Cardinal Pell is facing at least three civil lawsuits brought against him for historical sexual abuse by people claiming to be victims or their families if they are deceased.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

John Prine, who died on Tuesday, April 7, was one of country-folk music's greatest lyricists.
James T. KeaneApril 08, 2020
You are called to become obedient enough to serve the God who invites you to do seemingly very little. The God who himself apparently does nothing as the disease spreads.
Joe Hoover, S.J.April 08, 2020
Residents stand on a balcony as a South African National Defence Forces vehicle patrol the street, in Johannesburg on April 7. South Africa and more than half of Africa's 54 countries have imposed lockdowns, curfews, travel bans or other restrictions to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
The national measures being taken against the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa are unprecedented and are considered among the strictest in the world.
Anthony EganApril 08, 2020
A virus can keep us from gathering. A spirit-wound, it can curtail the sacramental life Christ gave us. But no virus can separate us from Christ.
Terrance KleinApril 08, 2020