The Pell Fallout Continues And It Has Implications For The Whole Church

Last week, it was announced by the Australian court system that Cardinal George Pell had been convicted in December of child sex abuse. The media had been prevented from reporting on the verdict because there was a hope of moving forward with yet another trial against the cardinal. That trial against Pell fell apart. Another, earlier proceeding ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury. The cases were confidential, but some outlets have reported that the jurors in that early trial voted 10-2 in favor of acquittal.

Nevertheless, one guilty verdict out of three was good enough to send a 77-year old cardinal to jail. And if the reporting is to be believed, this verdict was obtained without a shred of corroborating physical evidence or testimony. It comes as the result of just one complainant on decades-old charges. The defense had over 20 “unanswerable” witnesses testify on Pell’s behalf about his character and the logistical impossibility of him doing what he was alleged to have done. The man was, they said, never alone after offering Mass, never in a position to abuse anyone in such a public space, and vested in such a way that he would have been physically prevented from doing what was alleged.

One of the two boys Pell was convicted of abusing died of a drug overdose in 2014 before the case ever went to trial. He never accused Pell, nor gave evidence against him. The deceased’s mother admitted that he’d denied having been abused on at least two occasions. According to CNN:

The boy’s mother told police she’d explicitly asked her son if he’d ever been “interfered with or touched up in choir,” according to a transcript of Pell’s trial. The boy, then a teenager, said no.

It is impossible for us on the outside to prove innocence or guilt, but it is difficult not to form an opinion based on what is known. It is also clear that there has been a longstanding war against Cardinal Pell, with a number of questionable accusers appearing over the years, none of whose accusations could be verified, and some of which were simply proven false.

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