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Court to consider request for media gag order in Cardinal Pell trial

May 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Melbourne, Australia, May 14, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Australian court will determine Wednesday whether to accept a request by prosecutors for a “super injunction” against all media reporting of upcoming trials against Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, on charges of historic sexual offenses.

If accepted, the proposed injunction request would do more than block the details of the trials from being made public; it would also prevent “any report of the whole or any part of these proceedings and any court documents associated with this proceeding.”

The injunction would apply to “all states and territories of Australia and on any website or other electronic or broadcast format accessible within Australia.”

Similar restrictions kept private the number and details of the charges against Pell during a month-long preliminary hearing, during which the majority of the charges against the cardinal were dismissed.

The 10 remaining charges are likely to be run as two separate trials, Pell’s defense lawyer Robert Richter has said. The cardinal returns to the County Court in Melbourne May 16 for a further hearing, which is expected to determine if there will be two trials, and their dates.

The typical motive for use of a gag order on media is to keep members of a jury from learning prejudicial information about a case, leading to bias; though it can also prevent judges and lawyers from being held accountable during a trial.

“The proposed order is a blanket ban and is the most extreme form of order that can be made,” said Jason Bosland, deputy director of the Centre for Media and Communications Law at Melbourne Law School, the New York Times reports.

“It prevents publication of all details to do with the case, including the fact that proceedings are on foot and, indeed, that a suppression order has been issued,” Bosland said. “You can’t even publish the judge’s name.”

Cardinal Pell will remain on a leave of absence from his Vatican position as he faces charges of “historic sexual offenses” in his home country of Australia, the Vatican announced May 1.

The Archdiocese of Sydney posted last week an article and advertisement to its diocesan news website, the Catholic Weekly, explaining how supporters of Pell may contribute to a legal fund set up on his behalf.

The article, published May 4, stressed that though the archdiocese assists with living expenses, it is not responsible for the cardinal’s legal costs, and that the fund was established separately and is not being run by the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The Catholic Weekly reported that since Pell took leave from his role as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy almost 12 months ago, “many supporters wanted to contribute to his legal costs.”

The fund is being managed by a Melbourne legal firm.

Pell is accused of misconduct dating back decades, during his first years as a priest until he became the Archbishop of Melbourne. He has been accused of groping two boys at a swimming pool in the city of Ballarat during the 1970s, as well as assaulting two members of a choir at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne during the 1990s. More precise details about the charges were not made public.

The cardinal pleaded not guilty to the charges of historical sexual offense and surrendered his passport. The charge of “historical sexual offense” indicates that the alleged crimes happened decades ago. Australian law prohibits details of the charges from being publicly disclosed.

Pell was appointed Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014. He has been on leave of absence from this position since 2017, when he returned to Australia to face the accusations against him. Pell was the Archbishop of Sydney from 2001-2014, and Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996-2001. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966, and had been appointed an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987.

Pell was first accused of sexual misconduct in 2002, but no charges were filed at that time. In 2013, police in Australia began an investigation into him, before filing charges last year. Pell is reported to be the first cardinal to face a criminal trial for sexual misconduct.

Lawyers representing Pell insist that the charges against him are “impossible” and that he is innocent. Pell himself has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, saying that he finds sexual abuse to be abhorrent.

“I’m looking forward, finally, to having my day in court,” said Pell in June 2017. “I’m innocent of these charges. They are false.”


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Twins consecrated to Virgin Mary in infancy become priest, nun

May 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Valparaiso, Chile, May 13, 2018 / 03:52 pm (ACI Prensa).- As infants, Monica and Cristian Moya were hovering on the verge of death. But after their mother consecrated them to the Virgin Mary, they recovered from a severe case of pneumonia.

Today, Cristian Moya is a priest. Sister Monica Moya made her final vows with the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence – founded by Saint Luis Guanella – last year.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, Sister Monica recalled that their mother told them the story of their consecration to Mary just a few years ago.

The twins were born January 15, 1974 in San Antonio Province in the Valparaiso Region of Chile.

They were struck with a severe case of pneumonia when they were about three months old. In critical condition at the hospital, doctors informed their parents “that a blood transfusion was the last thing they would do for us,” the sister said.

Their mother – who had lost her first child at the age of one due to a heart condition – decided to consecrate the twins to the Virgin Mary, under her title of Nuestra Señora Purísima of Lo Vasquez (Our Lady Most Pure), a very well-known and beloved Marian title in Chile.

“My mom says that the only thing that came to her mind was to offer us to the Virgin and leave us in her hands. After that our recovery occurred,” Sister Monica said.

“Maybe you can look at this as a simple coincidence, but now one of her children is a priest and the other a nun,” she reflected.

Also notable, she added, is that Cristian “did his priestly formation in the seminary that is next to the Shrine of Nuestra Señora Purísima de Lo Vásquez,” the same church where their mother had gone to beg for the recovery of her children.

Sister Monica said that her mother’s offering “impacted me a lot and has made me think that the Lord took charge of taking me on this path, which… my parents also contributed to through prayer, Christian formation, and by themselves as a married couple.”

Besides the Virgin Mary, the nun’s vocation was also strongly tied to the person of Saint Joseph, patron of her congregation and whose solemnity coincides with the day she became a postulant, then a novice and also when she made her first vows.

While it is customary for a bishop to officiate the ceremony of final vows, Sister Monica was able to obtain permission for her twin brother to preside at the Mass.

Sister Monica considers her vocation “a gift and a miracle.”

“It’s something that has surpassed everything my mind can understand, it is a very particular grace that helps me say ‘yes’ every day.”


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Australian nun briefly detained in Philippines for political activism

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Manila, Philippines, Apr 17, 2018 / 07:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Australian nun was arrested and briefly detained earlier this week in the Philippines as the government cracks down on foreign human rights activists in the country.

Sister Patricia Fox was arrested April 16 by immigration authorities at her convent, where she serves as the Philippine superior of the international Catholic congregation Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. She has been working primarily with the rural poor in the country for the past 27 years.

Fox was held for 22 hours by authorities before being released, after “no probable cause” was found for her arrest and she was proven to be a legally documented alien with a missionary visa, according to UCA News. There is still a pending further investigation of her activities to determine whether she should be deported.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ news outlet (CBCP News) reported that they were told Fox was arrested for being an “undesirable alien” for participating in regional farmer protests.

The Philippines’ Intelligence services (NICA) have also charged Fox with participating in anti-government rallies. The organization claims it has a photo of the nun with a clenched fist holding a sign that says “Stop Killing Farmers”, according to Newsweek.

Immigration law in the Philippines stipulates that participating in rallies and political activities is a violation of the right to stay in the country.

Jobert Pahilga, Fox’s lawyer, denied these claims in a statement and said that she “has done nothing wrong or illegal that would warrant her arrest, detention and possible deportation.”

He said that his client was traveling to Tagum City to gather data on human rights violations against farmers in the area.

Fox said that she has stood in solidarity with the rural poor during rallies, but not as a political action.

“I would call it religious because we are called to stand beside the poor,” she told CBCP News. “I haven’t joined partisan political rallies but I have been active in human rights issues.”

Several human rights and Church leaders have denounced the arrest of the nun, including Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Pabillo told UCA news that Fox’s arrest was a “form of persecution and harassment” and that the nun “is too old to run from the government or from whatever allegations they are accusing her of.”

“This is political,” Pabillo added. “The government is trying to intimidate individuals and groups who are in pursuit of social justice for the oppressed and the poor.”

Fox is among several foreign human rights activists who have been arrested or barred from re-entering the Philippines in a recent crackdown on foreigners by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

“There’s no martial law yet but they are already going after people who oppose them,” Pabillo told CBCP News.

Fox will remain in the Philippines for the forthcoming investigation.


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Cardinal Pell’s lawyer argues no grounds for trial as hearing ends

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Melbourne, Australia, Apr 17, 2018 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Cardinal George Pell’s pre-trial hearing closes, his lawyer told an Australian court Tuesday that the charges being brought against the cardinal is based on false accusations.

“The allegations are a product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may or may not have, or just pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country,” Robert Richter, head of Pell’s defense team, said April 17, according to Reuters.

Richter added that the most serious of the alleged offences could not possibly have occurred, telling the court that the charges brought against Pell, who has been “the face” of the Catholic Church in Australia, “ought to be regarded as impossible and ought to be discharged without batting an eyelid.”

Pell’s attorney additionally cast a shadow over the credibility of some of the complainants, highlighting their inconsistencies with dates, saying that the alleged instances of abuse are “not to be believed,” because they remain “improbable, if not impossible.”

Richter told the court that Pell, who is prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, should not be committed to trial because the evidence did not hold “sufficient weight to support a conviction,” and that a trial would “be a waste of public time, effort and money.”

Prosecutor Mark Gibson said Richter’s statements were speculation, remarking that the defense’s arguments do not “fundamentally impact on the reliability of the complainants’ evidence.” He also suggested that Richter’s claims about complainants seeking revenge on the Church were “nothing more than a theory.”

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said that Richter may have taken some arguments “too far,” saying that she believes “issues of credibility and reliability are issues for a jury.”

Pell was not present during the hearing’s final day at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Wallington will determine May 1 whether Pell will be sent to trial.

Pell has been involved in ongoing court proceedings since June 2017, when he was charged with alleged historical sexual abuse crimes in his home state of Victoria dating back to the 1970s. He has maintained his innocence and will plead not guilty if his case proceeds to trial.

“I am innocent of these charges, they are false,” Pell told journalists in June 2017.
During the hearing, the Melbourne Magistrates Court heard testimony from 50 witnesses. During this time, Richter launched a counter-attack against the Victorian Police, who opened a special operation in 2013 to investigate Pell. Richter called it “an operation looking for a crime because no crime has been reported.”

Pell, 76, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966. He heads the Secretariat for the Economy and is one of the nine cardinals advising Pope Francis, but has been on leave from his duties since last summer.