Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction of historical sexual abuse of two choirboys will be heard before the full High Court of Australia on March 11. Pell’s conviction in a Melbourne county court in December 2018 was affirmed by the Victorian Court of Appeal in August 2019. The conviction was for two incidents of abuse that allegedly occurred in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in December 1996 and February 1997.
As several writers in Quadrant have recorded over the past twelve months, the conviction of Pell is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Australian history. This is not just because of his status at the time as the most senior figure in the Catholic Church in this country, but also because it breached the fundamental legal principle that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not how George Pell was treated either at his trial or in his first appeal. The jurors did not make their decision on the weight of evidence by more than twenty witnesses, who demonstrated that Pell could not possibly have done what the complainant said. Instead, the jurors accepted the sole evidence of the accuser, given in camera, with his identity shielded, and without corroboration of any kind. A two-to-one majority of judges in the Victorian Court of Appeal confirmed both the process and the decision…
Now, Gibson must be a Crown prosecutor with a short memory. He seems to have forgotten all about this retraction. Because on January 31, 2020, the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, submitted a response to the appeal to the High Court by Pell’s lawyers, Bret Walker and Ruth Shann. One of the four signatories to the DPP submission was Mark Gibson, signing himself as Victoria’s Senior Crown Prosecutor. In paragraphs 59 and 60 of this submission there is a version of what the altar servers supposedly did after they entered the priests’ sacristy. It is written as if the rebuke from the defence at the trial never happened, as if Judge Kidd had not told Gibson to retract what he said, and as if his retraction had never been made to the jury. End of extracts. To read entire report click here
The above article arrived in my inbox yesterday, courtesy of a reader of this blog, named Patrick. He wrote:
I have contacted you previously regarding the ‘kangeroo court’ verdict on Cardinal George Pell. Hopefully you will find time in your busy schedule to have a read of the [above] article. As far as I am concerned, the so called Catholic media should be shouting this from the rooftops.
It is sad that only two prominent commentators (and none outside Australia) are highlighting this satanic injustice perpetrated against a Prince of our faith. As far as I know neither of them are Catholic which should make us hang our heads in shame End of email.
Why is it, that journalists who purport to be keen to report injustices, miss something this big? I wonder what possible reason might explain their failure to cover something as serious as a Public Prosecutor admitting to false evidence while going on, later, to repeat it? This is what I look like when I’m “wondering”…
As for the legal profession – least said, soonest mended…
Melbourne, Australia, Aug 20, 2019 / 06:31 pm (CNA).- The conviction of Cardinal George Pell has been upheld by the Court of Appeals in Victoria. After an appellate panel announced its decision at a court proceeding Aug. 21, the cardinal was returned to prison.
“By majority (2 to 1), the Court of Appeals has dismissed Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction for the commission of sexual offences. He will continue to serve his sentence of 6 years’ imprisonment. He will remain eligible to apply for parole after he has served 3 years 8 months of his sentence,” Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said in her opening remarks in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
“The offenses in respect of which Cardinal Pell was found guilty by a County Court jury were one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16, and four charges of indecent act with a child under 16. The trial lasted for five weeks. The jury deliberated for several days. The jury’s verdict was unanimous,” Ferguson noted.
“Cardinal Pell’s conviction and this appeal have attracted widespread attention, both in Australia and beyond. He is a senior figure in the Catholic Church and is internationally well known,” Ferguson noted.
“As the trial judge, Chief Judge Kidd, commented when sentencing Cardinal Pell, there has been vigorous and sometimes emotional criticism of the cardinal and he has been publicly vilified in some sections of the community.”
“There has also been strong public support for the Cardinal by others. Indeed, it is fair to say that his case has divided the community.”
Pell’s appeal was dismissed on all three grounds the defense presented. Read more at Catholic World Report
This is very disappointing news, and pitiful to see the Cardinal in handcuffs when, more likely than not from what we know about this case, he is innocent of the charges. A couple of the bloggers over at Catholic World Report speak for many, if not the majority, so I’ll make their comments my own…
It seems that 2/3 of the Court of Appeals in Victoria wouldn’t recognize Justice if she came up and spat in their faces; as, given half a chance, I’m sure she would. Justice Wienberg seems to be the only one with either intellect or integrity.
No surprise here. They were hell-bent on conviction. Looking at what evidence that is available to the public, what was denied to the defense, and the dungeon theory of hidden proceedings and no media, this is nuts. The state of Victoria and its vaunted reputation for corruption and dogging Pell for years in search of a charge…even the OPI knew of the relentless efforts to find someone to set up the initial charge.And to think Pell went there on his own with no credible threat of extradition. Ends…
Feel free to share your thoughts – but, in any case, let’s all remember the Cardinal in our prayers.
Update – 3 March, 2019…
Since writing my original editorial comment below, I have been moved by the information given by bloggers and the evidence provided by several (not least the Australian bloggers) which appears to point to the Cardinal’s innocence. Read on, and tell us if you agree.
St John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, teaches that “…the person who does not become irate when he has cause to be, sins. For an unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices: it fosters negligence, and stimulates not only the wicked, but above all the good, to do wrong. (Homily Xl, super Matheum, 1c, nt 7).
So, what is the correct Catholic response to this sort of horrendous news? Horror at the Cardinal’s crimes (of which he insists he is innocent); compassion for his victims? Compassion for the Cardinal himself, that he has, apparently, succumbed to a shocking temptation and thus fallen from grace and brought his high office – and the Catholic Church itself – into disrepute?
Anger? Compassion? A combination?
One key question, however, has to be whether or not these appalling crimes are doing irreparable damage to the Bride of Christ, His Church. Of course Christ has promised to be with His Church until the end of time, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. There was no promise, however, that the gates of Hell wouldn’t come close, and they have never been as close as they are now, in our times. It has to be the case, then, that in some souls, the answer to the “irreparable damage” question is definitely “yes”. Some will never see the beauty of the Faith, some will be convinced that all priests are abusers, that the Church is evil. And isn’t that where St John Chrysostom’s exhortation to righteous anger should move us to action? But, what, if anything – beyond prayer and sacrifice – can any of us do about this sordid scandal of the abuse of children and vulnerable adults? There must be something we can do – but what?