MELBOURNE, Australia, December 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Australian Cardinal George Pell is in the process of appealing a jury’s verdict that found him guilty of sexually abusing choir boys, LifeSiteNews has learned from a source with knowledge of the case.
A jury had found Pell guilty of charges related to the sexual abuse of two choir boys in his native Australia in the late 1990s, according to the Daily Beast in a story that broke yesterday.
Two unrevealed sources told the Daily Beast that the verdict followed three days of deliberations. The trial is under a gag order, and no-one can publish details of the case in Australia. The order was granted to prosecutors so as to “prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.”
A trusted Australian source told LifeSiteNews today that Cardinal Pell’s appeal is already underway. The source called the ruling a “terrible injustice” that revealed the jury's “outrageous bias,” adding that there was “total astonishment” in the court at the jury's decision. The source said that the jury came to its decision despite the prosecution having only one witness and no other evidence.
The cardinal has always maintained that he is innocent of any incident of sexual abuse. His friend George Weigel, who has known the cardinal for fifty years, has compared the case to the Salem witch trials.
Weigel wrote last June that the charges against Pell were no surprise to “those familiar with the fantastic campaign of false allegations of sexual abuse conducted against the cardinal.”
Pell was subjected to such claims in 2002 and stepped aside as Archbishop of Melbourne during an inquiry into the matter. After examining the case, retired Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell cleared Pell, according to Andrew Bolt of Australia's Herald Sun.
Weigel said that the media’s own trial of Pell had created “a thoroughly poisonous public climate” worsened by “poorly sourced but widely disseminated allegations”, a lack of respect for elementary fairness and a “curious relationship between elements of the Australian media and the Victoria police.” One example of this “curious relationship” was the leaking of information by police to the Sydney Morning Herald about their investigation into Pell.
In May 2017, a tell-all book about Pell titled Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell appeared on bookshelves. Weigel called it “a hatchet job riddled with inaccuracies and replete with unfounded allegations.”
George Pell was born in 1941 in Ballarat, Victoria, and gave up a soccer career to become a priest. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1966 and to the episcopate in 1987. In 1996 he was appointed as the Archbishop of Melbourne, and in 2001 he was named the Archbishop of Sydney.
St. John Paul II elevated Pell to the cardinalate in 2003. After the election of Pope Francis in 2013, he was appointed the first prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy. It was now his task to sort out the finances of the Holy See. His authority was questioned in 2015 by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, a close collaborator of Pope Francis who was allegedly at the homosexual drug-fuelled party raided by the Vatican police in the summer of 2017 at which his secretary, Monsignor Luigi Capozzi, was arrested.
Pell’s work for the Secretariat for the Economy was interrupted by requests to appear before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and then in June 2017 to answer charges that he himself had sexually abused boys.
“I'm innocent of these charges,” Pell said at a press conference after this news broke. “They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Half of the charges against Pell were dropped by early May 2018, but the Cardinal still had to face two trials. According to the Daily Beast, these trials are being called “the cathedral trial”, relating to the cardinal’s alleged abuse of choir boys, and “the swimmers’ trial”, addressing accusations that Pell inappropriately touched boys while playing with them in a public swimming pool.
The Daily Beast says also that the guilty verdict it reported yesterday was the conclusion of “the cathedral trial.” According to its sources, the original “cathedral trial” was declared a mistrial earlier this year after a hung jury. A retrial began at once and ended this week with the unanimous verdict of guilt.
As Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell took action against clerical sexual abuse and cover-up by establishing Australia’s first independent commissioner to handle abuse claims. Subsequently, however, many Australians held that the “Melbourne Response” was too “legalistic” and not supportive enough of victims. Pell’s demeanor towards victims was also criticized.
News also broke today that Pell has been removed from Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals, called Group of Nine, or C-9.