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‘The only basis for justice is truth’ – With conviction overturned, Cardinal Pell speaks

“I hold no ill will to my accuser. I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough.”

Australian Cardinal George Pell is seen at the Vatican In this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2020 / 07:12 pm (CNA).- After his conviction for child sexual abuse was overturned Tuesday by Australia’s High Court, Cardinal George Pell has released a statement expressing gratitude to his family, friends, and legal team, and noting that he does not bear resentment toward his accuser.

“I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” Pell said April 7, according to a statement published by the Archdiocese of Sydney.

“This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision,” Pell added. “I look forward to reading the Judgment reasons for the decision in detail.”

“I hold no ill will to my accuser. I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough.”

“The only basis for long term healing is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all,” the cardinal added.

Pell is expected to be released from prison April 7.

Pell was convicted in 2018 of five counts of child sexual abuse. He was alleged to have sexually assaulted two choir boys while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

Pell’s attorneys called the allegation “simply impossible,” but after a hung jury in a first trial, he was convicted in a second.

While Pell was, for many, the face of Catholicism in Australia, and was much maligned after an Australian government enquiry revealed decades of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and other institutions, Pell insisted that his ordeal should have been limited to the allegations against him.

“My trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of peadeophilia in the Church.”

“The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes and I did not.”

Pell’s statement expressed “thanks for all the prayers and thousands of letters of support.”

“I want to thank in particular my family for their love and support and what they had to go through; my small team of advisors; those who spoke up for me and suffered as a result; and all my friends and supports here and overseas.”

“Also my deepest thanks and gratitude to my entire legal team for their unwavering resolve to see justice prevail, to throw light on manufactured obscurity and to reveal the truth.”

The Australian High Court granted Pell’s petition for special leave to appeal on April 7. In the decision, the seven justices unanimously found that there was “no evidence” to support the accuser’s narrative beyond his own perceived credibility by the jury, and that, “acting rationally on the whole of the evidence,” the jury could not have avoided reasonable doubt about Pell’s innocence.

“Plainly they did,” the justices concluded.

“Making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by the jury,” the High Court said, “there is a significant possibility in relation to [the] charges… that an innocent person has been convicted.”

The decision markes an end to a process which began in 2013, when police in Victoria opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes committed by Pell, despite there being no accusations or criminal complaints against him at that time.

The following year, in 2014, senior police officers in Victoria discussed via internal email how developments in the Pell investigation could be used to deflect media scrutiny and criticism from an unfolding corruption scandal in the force.

The operation was given a more formal footing the following year and charges were announced in 2017. Pell repeatedly denied all the accusations and left Rome for Melbourne insisting that he would clear his name in court.

During pre-trial committal hearings, several of the accusations, related to his time as a priest in the town of Ballarat, were dropped by prosecutors owing to lack of evidence.

In 2018, Pell arrived in court to face the first of what was originally meant to be two trials. That trial proceeded to a deadlock under a court-ordered media blackout in the early autumn of 2018. A five week retrial, also subject to blanket reporting restrictions, convicted Pell in December of that year, and Pell was sentenced to six years in prison.

The second trial collapsed before it could begin when, in January last year, prosecutors conceded they did not have enough evidence to proceed to trial.

Pell’s initial appeal of the verdict was rejected in 2019 by a court in the Australian state of Victoria, before the case went to the High Court which quashed the conviction.

Throughout his trial Pell has maintained his innocence, telling friends that he was committed to living his time in prison – much of it spent in solitary confinement – as a monastic retreat.

“He sees himself as living a time of purgatory for the sins of the Church, and he’s embracing it as that,” one close friend of Pell told CNA last year.

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  1. You will find no mention of Cardinal Pell’s acquittal in the American MSM as the High Courts verdict hampers the continued assault on the Catholic Church by the Devils Demons in US MSM.

    • The MSM in Australia were a major part of the problem. The national broadcaster, the ABC, together with the Fairfax press, were engaged in an outrageous abuse of process by the publication of prejudicial material and the release of allegations by the Victorian police. The problem for the MSM now is though, they are not the sole source of information. There may be a large group of uninformed people who gain their information from the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC, but there is a large group who can check their false reporting and who look up their own facts on the internet. The days of the MSM as guardians of information are gone – they have lost it because they have abused their roles as journalists.

      • Sadly, the amount of viciousness being spewed about the Cardinal and about the Church in general in the comment sections of artiles reporting the exoneration show that the MSM has poisoned people’s minds. I’ve read the complete judgment of the High Court and they go through step by step and show why there is no way any reasonable person could not have had reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell had committed the acts of which he was accused; but I’ll bet that most of the people making those comments won’t bother to read it.

        Their “reasoning” is, “If you say the Cardinal isn’t guilty it means that you think the sexual abuse of children is not wrong.”

        In the Lindy Chamberlain case, also in Australia, when new evidence was found the courts not only exonerated her and her husband but eventually a third coroner’s inquest ruled that her baby had been killed by a dingo. (That was what the first inquest had ruled, but after the media started spreading rumors and accusations a second inquest was called that ruled that it was murder). In spite of that, according to Lindy Chamberlain’s website some surveys show that 30% of Australians still believe that she is guilty.

        We need to keep praying for Cardinal Pell.

    • Hi g.raff –

      Amongst others, both the New York Times ( and Washington Post ( ran stories about the Cardinal’s acquittal shortly after the news broke. I don’t deny there’s bias, but its not a bias of silence (at least not in this case).

  2. Cardinal Pell is a great man – his time in prison may have saved many souls. It is a wonderful judgment by the High Court – one that has completely vindicated him and shows the case against him to be without foundation.

  3. The sun has peeked through the dark clouds with this news. A hero, at last! He called it”his purgatory for the sins of the church.” All glory, praise and honor to you Redeemer King❤️❤️❤️

  4. The Australian ‘legal’ system will be forever tarnished by this whole tawdry affair, and that is how it should be.

  5. We read that “in 2014, senior police officers in Victoria discussed via internal email how developments in the Pell investigation could be used to deflect media scrutiny and criticism from an unfolding corruption scandal in the force.”

    Now that truth has prevailed in the civil court down under, we await from the Vatican the pending report on Mr. McCarrick and the breadth of his metastasized “corruption scandal” in some parts of the hierarchy—-even touching, it has been said, negotiations toward the disastrous 2018 China provisional agreement. Still wondering, too, about the contents of the single-copy 300-page investigative report prepared in 2013 by three cardinals for emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, and delivered by him to Pope Francis. A link has been alleged between a well-positioned homosexual subculture and Vatican finances (scrutiny of finances being an assignment from which Cardinal Pell was deflected by his court case).

    Maybe truth in civil-court Australia foreshadows an ecclesial high point which, as a side plate at least, returns the truth-challenged theology of front man and stand-up comic Fr. James Martin back to the dark cerebral convolutions from whence it hath cometh.

  6. Once upon a time a witness in court in this nation took his or her oath on a copy of the Bible. Perhaps in the State of Victoria a witness takes his or her oath on a Jack Chick tract.

  7. Catholics and most people do not comprehend the growing hatred of the leftest media, politicians and their fellow travelers for anyone who disagrees or argues against their positions, especially on abortion. As I was told a long time ago when, when you scratch a liberal (really leftest) you find a fascist.

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