MELBOURNE, Australia. March 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal George Pell remains in solitary confinement in an Australian cell and has been denied the right to celebrate Mass.
The former archbishop of Melbourne was convicted in December 2018 after two jury trials and sentenced this month for the alleged sexual penetration of an altar boy. Sentenced to six years of confinement, Pell may face another round in court when his sentence is appealed in June. For the time being, the 77-year-old Pell is in a prison in Victoria state in southern Australia, where he is denied wine, which is necessary for Mass.
LifeSiteNews contacted the office of Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who represents the leftist Labour party in the state parliament. The attorney who defended Pell during the last stages of the trial was also contacted, as well as the archdiocese of Melbourne. No answer was received from any of the three by press time.
In the case of Premier Andrews, LifeSiteNews asked via email whether by denying Pell the right to administer Mass may be a violation of the UN Charter on Human Rights, of which Australia is a signatory. The Charter guarantees, as does the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, the free exercise of religion and to change one’s religion or belief.
According to renowned Catholic author George Weigel, Pell is not allowed to celebrate Mass and is prohibited having wine. For his part, John Macauley — who once was an altar server to Cardinal Pell — said Pell is also forbidden to have a breviary, a book of prayers used by Catholic priests. A review of prison regulations for Victoria revealed that prisoners are allowed to have a Bible and other books, including the Koran.
According to Catholic News Agency, no prisoner, including a priest, is permitted wine and no prisoner may lead religious services in Victoria’s prisons.
Regarding prisoners in the United States, an official of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons stated to LifeSiteNews that prisoners who were priests before incarceration “relinquish that religious role and title in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Therefore, if a Catholic priest enters BOP custody, he is not authorized to administer Catholic Mass or other Catholic services in prison. However, they may participate in and celebrate Catholic Mass.”
Critics of Pell’s conviction and sentence have pointed out that his first trial found him not guilty of the charges that he exposed himself and sexually abused two altar boys decades ago. Pell pleaded not guilty in two trials and continued to repudiate the charges against him. In a statement, Pell’s lawyer, Paul Galbally, said, “Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so.” One of the supposed victims recanted before he died, and prosecutors relied on evidence from just one alleged victim to convict Pell.
Numerous Catholic and non-Catholic commentators have cited fears that Australian police and the judiciary may have been tainted by sensationalist claims and anti-Catholic sentiment roused by the continuing scandal of sexual abusers among the priesthood. Australian columnists Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine both denounced the verdict for Pell. Bolt wrote, “I am not a Catholic or even a Christian,” who added that the “overwhelming evidence” proves Pell’s innocence. “He is a scapegoat, not a child abuser. In my opinion,” he said.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, responded to LifeSiteNews and verified that no more than one drop of wine and one drop of water are necessary to confect the Blood of Christ in the Mass. He recalled that the Venerable Francis Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan ( who died in 2002) celebrated daily Mass with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of his hand during 13 years in Communist prisons in Vietnam.