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Monday, 04 March 2019 10:05

The Vendetta Against Cardinal Pell

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Most of the media are certain he is, with some notable exceptions. I believe he is innocent and that the jury should certainly have brought in a verdict of not guilty. There has been a gross miscarriage of justice. 

Australian George Cardinal Pell has been found guilty in a Melbourne court of sexual abuse of two boys under the age of 16, including oral sex, and is now in prison awaiting sentencing: probably a term of several years. An appeal is being lodged by his legal team.

   But is he guilty? Most of the media are certain he is, with some notable exceptions. I believe he is innocent and that the jury should certainly have brought in a verdict of not guilty. There has been a gross miscarriage of justice.

   First let us look at the background. Cardinal Pell is one of the most orthodox bishops in the Church and has never hesitated to uphold orthodoxy and denounce error. As Archbishop of Melbourne and later Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney he took firm action against attempts to water down the Faith, as well as upholding the truth about abortion, contraception and homosexual behaviour.

   As a result he made numerous enemies, both within the Church and outside. Most of the media dislike him, many people hate him. His enemies have been out to get him for decades, making charges that have been clearly shown to be false.

   For example, he was accused of abusing someone at the screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1978 in the Victorian city of Ballarat – six months before the film came there! Also in Ballarat, he was accused of ignoring a complaint made to him about an abusive priest – but his passport showed that he was overseas at the time!

      He was initially charged with a large number of sexual offences in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, but these, with two exceptions, were thrown out. The other two matters went to the County Court, and one of these was dismissed for lack of evidence. So after years of investigation by the police, who seemed determined to find something that would stick, what remained for the jury was charges of sexual assault against two choirboys In St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne in 1996.

   One of those boys is now dead from an overdose, and apparently never claimed  he was assaulted, and the whole case against the Cardinal is the claim by the other former choirboy, now about 35 years old, that they were sexually assaulted.

   He claims they were assaulted in the sacristy by the then Archbishop Pell immediately after High Mass celebrated by the Archbishop. The offences continued for several minutes. He says they had left the choir without leave and returned there after the assault.

   This scenario seems incredible. In the court proceedings no one could recall the boys either being absent from the choir or returning there afterwards.

   It is also hard to believe that no one would have witnessed the offences, because the sacristy would have been a hive of activity at that time. I have been in that sacristy, which is an open area affording no privacy. (I live within a short distance of the Cathedral, and know it well.)

   Even if no one had been there or entered while the offences were taking place, it would have been sheer madness on the Cardinal’s part to indulge in that behavior for up to ten minutes with the likelihood, to say the least, that someone would enter and see what was going on.

   Also, Pell’s practice was to leave the Cathedral after Mass and greet people outside; whereas if the complainant’s account is true Pell must have entered the sacristy alone. But the master of ceremonies, Monsignor Charles Portelli, testified that he was with the Archbishop the whole time.

   Possibly there are men so twisted that they would take the awful risk that Dr Pell must have taken if he was guilty, but such a pervert would have been guilty of numerous offences over the years, and would have been found out long before reaching the Cardinal’s present age of 77, especially if his enemies were out to get him for half his lifetime.

   Not only that, but those who know the Cardinal know that he does not fit that description. Commentator Andrew Bolt, writing in the Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun (February 27), gives the Cardinal’s character as one reason why he cannot believe the charges. Bolt is not a Catholic and not even a Christian, but he is a fair-minded man whose sense of justice puts to shame those prominent Catholics who are condemning Cardinal Pell despite the evidence.

   The accuser stated that the Cardinal was wearing his vestments when the attack occurred and that he moved them to expose himself, but the defence argued that this was not possible because of the way the robes were fastened.

   A disturbing fact is that the accuser’s identity has been kept secret. If it were  known, possibly evidence would emerge throwing new light on the accusations. The whole case against the Cardinal rests on the testimony of one man. The jury evidently found him believable, but some people can lie very convincingly and some people suffer from delusions.

   So Cardinal Pell was convicted on that testimony despite the very strong evidence in his favour. Any fair-minded person should see that a not guilty verdict should have been returned because, whether or not one agrees with my contention that the evidence shows beyond reasonable doubt that the Cardinal is innocent, it is absolutely certain that his guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt.

   An unnamed Melbourne priest said: “It is clear it is no longer possible for a Catholic priest to get a fair trial in this State”.

   It is reported that Cardinal Pell will be in solitary confinement at least for the present, because of the danger of assault by other prisoners. We must keep him in our prayers and pray that the unjust conviction will be overturned on appeal.

This article first appeared in The Wanderer and is used here by permission of the author.

John Young

Author, Philosophy lecturer

John has studied philosophy and theology deeply, and has a bachelor’s degree in theology. He is the author of three books, a number of pamphlets, and over 600 published articles. John is interested especially in the thought of St Thomas Aquinas, and its application to modern questions. He is also interested in fundamental economic questions viewed from a natural moral law aspect.