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Holy See issues statement on dismissal of Cardinal George Pell’s appeal

Pell’s legal team has said it will thoroughly examine the over 300-page judgment before deciding whether to petition the Australian High Court.

Australian Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, Oct. 6, 2017. An Australian appeals court Aug. 21, 2019 upheld the conviction of Cardinal Pell on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys more than two decades ago. (CNS photo//Mark Dadswell, Reuters)

The Vatican said Wednesday it respects the decision by the Court of Appeals in Victoria to uphold the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, while recalling Pell’s insistence of his innocence throughout the judicial process.

The conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of abuse was upheld by the Court of Appeals in Victoria Aug. 21. After an appellate panel announced its decision at a court proceeding, the cardinal was returned to prison.

“While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system… the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal,” Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, said Aug. 21.

Bruni stated that “as the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.”

Pell’s legal team has said it will thoroughly examine the over 300-page judgment before deciding whether to petition the Australian High Court in Canberra. Such an effort is expected by legal experts to offer very slim chance of success, given the appeal court result.

Pell’s lawyers have said that he will not petition for a shorter sentence.

Bruni concluded his brief statement Aug. 21 by expressing the Holy See’s closeness to victims of sexual abuse and confirming its commitment to carry out appropriate ecclesiastical procedures against clergy who have committed abuse.

The Vatican announced in March the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would carry out a canonical process against Pell at the conclusion of the judicial process in Australia.

In response to questions, Bruni confirmed to journalists Aug. 21 that the CDF is “awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case.”

Bruni also referenced the precautionary measures imposed on Pell on his return to Australia in summer 2017, per Vatican norms: “the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors.”

The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choristers after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned. He has been held in solitary confinement for 176 days. Pell is not permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

He may now be transferred from the intake and evaluation facility at which he is currently being held to a different prison in Victoria.

Pell’s lawyers have said that he will not petition for a shorter sentence.

A statement from the Australian archbishops’ conference Wednesday said the bishops “believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly.”

The statement also noted the Australian bishops’ commitment to bringing healing to those who have suffered abuse and to ensuring Catholic spaces are always safe, especially for children and vulnerable adults.

Individual Australian bishops also released statements Wednesday, including Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, who said “reasonable people have taken different views when presented with the same evidence” in Pell’s case, urging people “to maintain calm and civility.”

“I know that there are many in the Catholic community and beyond who will find it difficult to come to terms with this judgment,” Fisher said, “especially those who know the Cardinal and will struggle to reconcile this outcome with the man they know. I thank them for persevering in faith, hope and love.”

“As we wait to hear whether the legal process will continue, I will seek to provide pastoral support to those Catholics who may have found their faith tested,” the archbishop added.

The current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter A. Comensoli, said in his statement that he knows “the complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many, and may very well continue to do so.”

He expressed his prayers and support for the man who brought the case against Pell before the courts, offering “pastoral and spiritual help, should he seek it.”

Comensoli also said that he will ensure “Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison.”


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22 Comments

  1. “The Vatican said Wednesday it respects the decision by the Court of Appeals in Victoria”

    Well, that makes one of us who respects it.

  2. “The complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many” (Archbishop Comensoli Melbourne) is typical of politically correct blather. There was absolutely zero complexity in this prejudiced lynching. Conviction had to rest on guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Conviction was instead pronounced by the actual morally guilty on the slightest possibility within the spectrum of possibilities. That charge immediately following Mass in a crowded Cathedral he induced two altar servers in the sacristy to perform sodomy. Witnesses denied testimony the charade of justice to the eternal shame of Australia and may I suggest the very possible Eternal condemnation of those who convicted Cardinal Pell. Rarely in history has so obvious a case of vengeful injustice against a Catholic bishop been so evident. The Vatican “respects” the decision of classic Australian Kangaroo Justice. Some Australian Lawyers have commented on this site defending irrational Catholic hate in the verdict. God help them also. The sense given by this Vatican and cowardly prelates is that there is more injustice in store for those who uncover and seek justice as did Cardinal Pell regarding misuse of finances within this Vatican. That is any injustice exposed by the faithful. Ultimately the unjust will lose at terrible price unless they repent.

  3. While the bureaucrats at the Holy See are ducking for cover, I shall continue to believe that Cardinal Pell is innocent for as long as he claims that he is. — Australia’s first martyr in the making.

    • He is indeed a martyr. An atonement for the hundreds of perverted and weak bishops and priests.

      They might as well have done this at Tabatha.

  4. He is indeed a martyr. An atonement for the hundreds of perverted and weak bishops and priests.

    They might as well have done this at Tabatha.

  5. It becomes a travesty of justice knowing Cardinal Pell is sitting in prison unable to say Mass while his accuser is free.

    The accuser knows full well his testimony is false due to the simple & straightforward fact that he testified that Cardinal Pell held his vestment wide open. All Catholics understand the seamless vestment is not capable of being held split open & yet the jury upon hearing this evidence convicted Cardinal Pell anyway. Shame on them & shame on the appellate court.

  6. Cardinal Pell , sharing the first name of St.George the dragon slayer , with our Holy Father – before he took on the name of St.Francis ..
    St.George and England and Australia connections , may be realms of deep wounds against The Church and all that too .
    EWTN commentary mentioned doubts whether the Cardinal has that much ‘fight ‘ left in him any more , because of his age too ..
    there in might be the mystery ..
    Australia to Argentina, may be a deep sadness , in the Fatherly hearts, of not having foreseen the tsunami that was building up – not due to any personal
    neglects , yet … thus , may be even a desire to be the victim , for both sides – for the sake of the falsely accused , which would include The Father Himself, who is the One who gets accused for the human pride , hardness of hearts and the workings of the enemy spirits that are invited in , many walking away , even daring to deny the very existence of The Father ..
    the desire too , likely , to help augment focus and thus efforts , to prevent future instances , by a more aggressive implementation may be of , of all the arsenals of The Church , such as ministry of deliverance , as suggested in this article – https://spiritdailyblog.com/commentary/a-simple-inconvenient-truth
    Thank God that the simple ministries that do same , such as the Heart of The Father ministries are getting more attention as well .
    Would even nonconventional means such as ongoing Eucharistic cruises , esp. around these island nations , be considered , as the appeal process is being looked into – there are persons in the charismatic circles that have reported miraculous results from same .
    Those Vilnius images of Mercy too , should any church in our times be without a large enough image of same, to also bring honor to The Father , since this icon seems to have the most Fatherly look AFIK.
    The Cardinal , possibly have the means to have Adoration , where he is at – same might have been true for the Holy Apostles too, in their last days , in jails ..
    thus joining in spirit with many , to praise The Father , opening the prison doors of those in the fires of purgatory or of the world as well ..
    Holy Father’s initiative to share the rosaries in Syria – hope those who can help him to do so for the Divine Mercy images also would take note .
    Meanwhile, believers , with that sense of grief too , joining the victims , who are on both sides in one sense in this case , thus aid the Queen of Heaven , to bring the reign of peace , healing the deep wounds and driving out the enemy strong
    holds of the dragon from one end to the other .
    St.George and Mary , Queen of Heaven pray for us all .

  7. There is a wave of hatred to Catholic clergy and the Church all over the world. The few irregularities committed by some clergy may be one reason for it. Here the judge never cared to hear the plea of the accused. A real judge should hear both sides and consider the case and not fully believing the accuser. Also I will argue that if the accuser had a complaint it should have been registered within a week or month of the happening. Simply accusing someone of immorality after many years is sheer nonsense,but rules do not invalidate . There should be a law of limitation as otherwise it is an encouragement for revenge by people any time.

    • K. C. Thomas:
      “Simply accusing someone of immorality after many years is sheer nonsense,but rules do not invalidate. There should be a law of limitation as otherwise it is an encouragement for revenge by people any time.”
      ***********
      I would agree that making accusations years after a crime has been alleged to occur is problematic, but what other recourse is there for young children who have been victimized & frightened by an adult perpetrator? They are easily threatened & manipulated into silence by the abuser & may not have the courage to confront him until they’re adults.

      I worry also about our present anti-Catholic atmosphere & have real doubts about Cardinal Pell’s verdict. But beyond giving victims delayed justice you have to remember that there are dangerous predators who will continue to harm children unless someone speaks out. Even if it’s been
      decades since their first crimes.
      However to have real justice you have to have real evidence & corroboration-both seem scarce in Cardinal Pell’s verdict.

  8. While some are in a cozy monastery, this honorable servant is in prison. One of the signs of satan, I understand, is he turns things upside down and calls evil good and good evil. One of Mother Angelica’s famous lines is “I wouldn’t want to be standing near them on judgment day.”

  9. There wouldn’t be many convicted criminals who’ve enjoyed as much slavering support as George Pell.

    George Pell is no Ned Kelly. Why, then, is so much energy being devoted into trying to make him a folk hero for conservatives?

    There is still a chance, however small, that he might yet beat the charges in the High Court, but it’s not much of a chance, and whichever way that final appeal goes, there is one outcome you can bet on with confidence: Pell’s defenders will do immense damage to the institution of the courts and the justice system as a whole in the prosecution of their culture war.

    Because that’s what this is. The extra-judicial defence of George Pell is not a fight for truth or righteousness – it is simply a continuation of politics by other means.

    It is disgraceful.

    The systemic abuse of children by paedophile clergy is not a myth or a meme. It is a massive and well-documented atrocity that has taken the lives of an unknown number of victims, and caused vast suffering to many, many more.

    It has blighted the existence of survivors and their families and done incalculable damage to the church itself.

    A truly conservative response to the conviction of so senior a figure as Pell would not seek to diminish or even negate his crime. A true conservative would accept the vital importance of a perpetrator accepting personal responsibility for his actions and attempting to make amends for them, no matter how impossible that restitution might be.

    Instead we get conspiracy theories, special pleading and brazen contempt not just for the court and its officers but also for the victims of the crime.

    https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/defending-the-indefensible-pell-is-no-ned-kelly-20190827-p52l3l.html

    • “The extra-judicial defence of George Pell is not a fight for truth or righteousness – it is simply a continuation of politics by other means. It is disgraceful.”

      No, your cynical and, yes, politicized, slander of those who believe, with good reason, that Pell is innocent, is slanderous.

      • Carl, you quote from the article that is linked at the bottom of my post. They are not my words and I believe the situation is much more complex and multi layered that those words suggest. I also believe there is an element of truth to the opinions he has written about. Perhaps I should be more careful in what I post. It is worth stating that there has been numerous statements that have directly attributed motive to my expressed opinions that are unfair, untrue and way off the mark.

        • ……and now I’ve had time to think over the choice of words, I think it a grave injustice that you chose the word slander as a descriptor of my commentary. It does come over as intimidation and a thinly veiled threat and completely unnecessary given the effort I have made to explain myself over many posts.

        • “I think it a grave injustice that you chose the word slander ”

          Quite true; it’s an injustice to the language. It’s written, and therefore I believe the correct word is libel.

      • Furthermore Carl, It would seem to the casual observer, of which I hope there are many, that It would suit your narrative if my motive was essentially political. I am not sorry to inform you that my motivation is on behalf of the many children, now adults and their families, their broken hearts, bodies and minds, who have suffered abuse under Cardinal Pells watch! Details of which you lot seem to think have no relevance to the legal proceedings because no detailed analysis appears within the articles written so far. So not without reason, my question remains unanswered as to why not! The complete and utter betrayal of their innocence and the many unholy manoeuvrings to negate their just cause, are the subject of my posting here. This is the motivation i have had from since the 1990’s way before I heard anything about culture wars political correctness or Liberal Conservative catholic warring! You state unreservedly of my ” cynical and, yes, politicized, slander of those who believe, with good reason, that Pell is innocent, is slanderous.”
        You sir do not know the motive of my heart!

        • “my motivation is on behalf of the many children, now adults and their families, their broken hearts, bodies and minds, who have suffered abuse under Cardinal Pells watch! Details of which you lot seem to think have no relevance to the legal proceedings”

          Because they are not relevant to the legal proceedings, which are about this one person’s accusations about specific acts that he says Cardinal Pell committed.

      • I have read and written extensively about the Cardinal Pell file.

        Many experienced people of good judgement, (including Melbourne Archbishop Peter, international Australian journalist Andrew Bolt, counsel Robert Richter and the lawyer Jesuit Father Frank Brennan S.J.), and who have known Cardinal Pell personally have declared Cardinal Pell to be innocent, not merely not guilty.

        My views include that:
        1) the search for the truth is continuing
        2) the legal system in Australia is not a system designed to establish the truth
        3) the chances of Cardinal Pell having a successful Australian High Court legal appeal are low, (his state level appeal was lost)
        4) BUT a subsequent application under human rights law to the European based international court of justice has a higher probability of finding Cardinal Pell innocent, based on the public material available to date

        To date not one relevant person has stated that they saw the Kid and Choirboy, (the Kid’s fellow chorister, now deceased), leave any post-mass procession and also no relevant person has stated that the Kid and the Choirboy returned to the group of practising choristers at a later time and in a disturbed and alcohol affected state (as would be consistent with the evidence given by the Kid).

        To date there is no statement that any contemporaneous material has been sought that would tend to corroborate or contradict either the Kid or Cardinal Pell.

        I note that those who claim to have professionally considered the allegations of the Kid, (including the police, the DPP and investigative journalists), have not produced any such material at all.

        Regards to all from Peter Halliday at peter.halliday@gmail.com

    • Mr. Hallam,

      I have no idea how old you are, but I can easily imagine how you would have held forth in 1982: “Some mothers have committed infanticide, and therefore Lindy Chamberlain has been rightfully convicted, and anybody who says that she was wrongfully convicted is showing brazen contempt not just for the court and its officers but also for the victim of the crime.”

      The disgrace is that you are so fixated on politics and revenge that you seem not to care at all that an examination of the testimony at the trial – and no, I wasn’t there, but I’ve read the reports of it and I’ve read the excerpts provided in the appellate court’s decision, and the reports and excerpts agree – shows that the case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Or are you of the opinion that Judge Mark Weinberg was part of this “disgrace” because he pointed out how flawed the decision was?

      “The systemic abuse of children by paedophile clergy is not a myth or a meme. It is a massive and well-documented atrocity that has taken the lives of an unknown number of victims, and caused vast suffering to many, many more.”

      Nobody is saying that the abuse is a myth, or that it wasn’t an atrocity that cause horrible suffering. That has nothing to do with whether Cardinal Pell committed this crime.

      Every one of those clergy who committed the atrocity to which you refer is a man. Therefore, is someone ever accuses you of sexually assaulting him and tells a story composed of unlikelihood piled on impossibility, with no witnesses who support his story and many who testify that it couldn’t be true, will you be perfectly content if you are convicted in spite of the many shadows of doubts that should have arisen in the jury’s minds? After all, you are a man, and the crimes that were committed were heinous, and therefore you must be guilty.

      “George Pell is no Ned Kelly.” I had to look up Ned Kelly, since I’d never heard of him. You’re quite right, Cardinal Pell is no Ned Kelly. Kelly was guilty, and there was plenty of evidence to prove it.

      My concern about the conviction is the lack of evidence and the fact that the accuser’s story is full of things that are at the very best unlikely. I haven’t paid as much attention to Mr. Weigel’s discussion of the toxic atmosphere surrounding the case, since I’m less concerned with the reasons for the injustice of the conviction than the fact that it happened. But every post that you have made has pretty much proved Mr. Weigel’s point. You address not at all the many concerns that I, and others, have posted: about the whole “Operation Tethering” which started with a presumption that the Cardinal must be guilty of something and went hunting for someone, anyone, who would accuse him; about the accuser’s shifting story; about the fact that the accuser’s claims are contradicted by the testimony of many other witnesses. All you do is say that terrible things have happened, and that you dislike Cardinal Pell, and that everyone who doesn’t accept the verdict is focused on politics. In other words, you are a living exemplar of the toxic climate Mr. Weigel mentions. I’m left thinking that if the jury was composed of peoople who, like you, have a massive prejudice, a blind spot, a feeble grasp of logic, and a very strange concept of justice, it explains the conviction in the face of what any reasonable person must consider to be reasonable doubts.

      “the victims of the crime.”

      There was only one complainant. The other boy denied that he had ever been assaulted. I’ve read the claims that “Oh, but often it’s years before a victim is able to talk about it.” I daresay that’s true; but to claim that even though the second boy never made any accusations that would be just what one would expect of a victim” is the invisible man argument. “There’s an invisible man in that chair.” “I don’t see anything.” “Of course! That’s exactly what you would expect to see if there’s an invisible man in the chair!”

      “A truly conservative response to the conviction of so senior a figure as Pell would not seek to diminish or even negate his crime. A true conservative would accept the vital importance of a perpetrator accepting personal responsibility for his actions and attempting to make amends for them, no matter how impossible that restitution might be.”

      And again, you’re ignoring that fact that we don’t believe that he is guilty, and not for political reasons. A truly conservative response to a perceived injustice is to fight against it. That’s what we’re doing.

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