Around Christmas 2018 Australian news sources were full of articles about the suppression of news about a ‘high profile Australian’ who had been involved in a court case. Since the news was only suppressed in Australia, it didn’t take much investigation to come up with the name Cardinal George Pell.
For my non-Australian readers, Pell is Australia’s most powerful Catholic. He was recruited by Pope Francis to work in Rome, looking at the Vatican’s finances. In effect, he was the world’s third highest ranking Catholic. He has long been the target of campaigners against clerical sexual abuse. Pell was a one-time friend of convicted child molester, Gerald Ridsdale, and he has often been accused of covering up such behaviour.
The news of Pell’s trial was suppressed here because he was due to face other charges of a similar nature and knowledge of the verdict in the earlier case could have prejudiced the jury in the second case. That was right and proper, even if suppression in these days of the internet is almost impossible.
As it happens, the second case was withdrawn, so now we (formally) know. Cardinal Pell was convicted of child sexual abuse.
I’ve spoken in the past about justice. I wrote a blog post entitled Who Deserves Justice? In 2017. Here’s a little of what I said back then.
“My mind kept returning to the cover-up of child abuse in institutions set up to care for children. Bishops, archbishops, cardinals covered up for paedophile clerics, moving these predatory monsters from parish to parish to PROTECT THE CHURCH. Never mind the kids. I can imagine one of these bastards rubbing his hands with glee as he took up his post in a new parish. Ahahahaha new blood. The hypocrisy of the leadership of these organisations beggars belief. Never mind the men whose lives were ruined because, as eight-year-old boys, they were routinely buggered by a pervert. If they complained to the hierarchy (as some did) they were called liars, making things up. We must protect the good name of the Church.”
Based on the reports I’d seen in the press, I had little doubt that Cardinal Pell, as a bishop and archbishop, helped to cover up the actions of evil clerics who preyed on kids. If that were true he deserved punishment – though in retrospect, after his conviction was quashed, I’m not so sure the press was right.
But that was not the charge he faced.
He was found guilty of the rape of two boys in St Patrick’s cathedral when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. Immediately after the conviction became public, the doubters came forward with (to me) compelling arguments. Here’s what Andrew Bolt had to say. And from a link in Bolt’s article, please read ‘famed church historian’ George Weigel’s timetable of improbabilities.In essence, both argue that Cardinal Pell didn’t have the time, or the opportunity, to carry out the rape without having been seen.
Having served on a jury, I know the press reports do not cover everything disclosed in the court room and that twelve people came to the conclusion, based on the evidence presented, that the man was guilty as charged beyond reasonable doubt. But plenty of people have been convicted of crimes they did not commit.
Justice must be just.
There will be much more said about this case. It will go to appeal. If everybody deserves justice, then so does George Pell.