“They have convicted an innocent man”

Trial observer: “It was absolutely clear to everyone in that court that the accusations were baseless. It wasn’t that Pell didn’t do what he’s accused of -- he clearly couldn’t have done it.”

Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, outside Rome’s Hotel Quirinale, March 3, 2016. (Credit: Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA)

After reports of a guilty verdict emerged in the trial of Australian Cardinal George Pell, some in Australia have questioned the integrity of a process undertaken under the veil of a media blackout.

The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11 on five charges that he sexually abused two altar servers while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s. The unanimous verdict followed an earlier mistrial in which, CNA has confirmed with multiple sources, a jury was deadlocked at 10-2 in favor of a “not guilty” verdict.

The guilty verdict comes ahead of a second trial, scheduled for February 2019, in which Pell will face further accusations of abuse dating back to the 1970s, during which time he served as a priest in Ballarat.

Reporting restrictions imposed by the County Court of Victoria mean that the progress or outcomes of the trial cannot be covered by local media or broadcast electronically into Australia. No media discussion of the accusations or Pell’s defense is permitted in the country.

Nevertheless, CNA has spoken to several sources familiar with the Pell case, all of whom expressed disbelief at the verdict. The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the legal gag order imposed by the court.

“They have convicted an innocent man,” one source directly familiar with the evidence told CNA. “What’s worse is that they know they have.”

An individual who attended the entire trial in person but is unconnected with Pell’s legal team, told CNA that Pell’s lawyers had made an “unanswerable defense.”

“It was absolutely clear to everyone in that court that the accusations were baseless. It wasn’t that Pell didn’t do what he’s accused of – he clearly couldn’t have done it.”

The allegations are understood to concern Pell assaulting the two choristers in the sacristy of Melbourne cathedral on several occasions immediately following Sunday Mass.

The defense presented a range of witnesses who testified that the cardinal was never alone in the sacristy with altar servers or members of the choir, and that in all the circumstances under which the allegations are alleged to have taken place, several people would have been present in the room.

The sacristy in Melbourne’s Cathedral has large open-plan rooms, each with open arches and halls, and multiple entrances and exits, the defense noted.

Defense attorneys also produced a range of witnesses who testified that Pell was constantly surrounded by priests, other clergy, and guests following Sunday Masses in the cathedral, and that choristers had a room entirely separate from the sacristy in which they changed as a group, before and after Mass.

In a May 2015 column for The Australian, journalist Gerard Henderson said that Pell was the victim of a “modern-day witch hunt.” Henderson drew specific attention to what he called biased and inaccurate coverage of Pell by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Henderson also noted that as Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell brought in a new program to deal with accusations of sexual abuse and to compensate victims within months of his arrival.

Cardinal Pell is expected to be sentenced in January. He can appeal the guilty verdict to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.

Comments

  1. I’m no lawyer, and certainly have little knowledge have little knowledge of Australian court procedures. Something does not make sense. I’m sure the Cardinal had first-rate legal representation. Somehow this legal team failed to convince the Court of the probity of all the information cited in the article. Perhaps there is more.
    Still, if the conviction stands on final appeal, I believe the Cardinal must resign.

  2. I would like to hear the story of the two young choristers who claim that Pell assaulted them, with full details– from their point of view. In this article, we have no story to follow, of the reasons behind the trial! I understood that the press was kept away because they are too wild, when they cover such trials– and can badly influence juries. But what is the story, from the two choristers’ viewpoint?? And if a crime was indeed committed by Pell– are these two choristers suffering a lot??

    • Apparently, one “abused” accuser is dead (and the other is perhaps a good sociopathic con artist).

      The dead one (OD) purportedly admitted to a family member before he died that no abuse had taken place and that the whole thing was a scam.
      It is impossible to know what to believe so it’s pretty much in God’s Hands. If innocent, the Cardinal will receive his reward from Christ.

  3. Your Fellow Catholic says:

    The continued defense of Pell in spite of the unanimous verdict demonstrates just how pervasive the coverup of clergy sex abuse is throughout the Church, even into the laity who claim to be all up in arms about it all.

  4. 10-2 in favor of acquittal, and now a guilty verdict? Doesn’t make sense.

    • One could say that Cardinal Pell is loved by traditional Catholics in Australia, of which I am one, and hated by modernist Catholics. of which there are many. In the early 1990’s when Cardinal Pell was attacked on many fronts by disgruntled media and dissident Catholics, a Polish priest asked my thoughts on the state of the Church in Australia to which I replied that everything has to play out the way it is written in Scripture. Cardinal Pell is our most high profile cleric and, while we have not always agreed with his theology, his morals are above reproach. We have offered many Masses for Cardinal Pell in his difficulties and we trust in the good Lord to look after him. After all, many saints of the Church were accused of sexual…

  5. Something is very ‘rotten’ in Denmark here. Nothing adds up. Yes indeed, the long arm of the Vatican could very well have reached over to Australia and paid them handsomely. I really hate to be such a cynic on the matter, but who in their right mind can trust Rome at this point? Cardinal Pell had the financial goods on them, they knew it and he knew it. As I always say……”If it walks like a duck”………

  6. So the Melbourne detective started investigating Cardinal Pell March 2013 before he was even accused of anything. That is around the same time that Pope Francis was elected Pope March 2013. Four years later, Pell had to leave the inner circle of the Vatican to go home to Australia to clear his name. Now he is subjected to a judicial process in a kangaroo court. No pun intended. Interesting coincidences.

  7. NonAustralian says:

    If there was a deathbed confession of a scam by one of the two complainants to a family member, why wouldn’t that have carried considerable weight? Wouldn’t a family member close enough to be confessed to by the dying man want to ensure that justice was done. There’s much that needs to be revealed. Until it is, I am sceptical.

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