Australia Pell has found justice but his remaining days won't be peaceful

08:40  07 april  2020
08:40  07 april  2020 Source:   theage.com.au

Pell High Court decision due next week

  Pell High Court decision due next week Australia's Highest Court will hand down their decision on disgraced Cardinal George Pell's appeal bid next Tuesday.The High Court will hand down its judgment in his case on Tuesday.

Cardinal George Pell had his convictions for sexually assaulting boys quashed. There he has spent his days locked in isolation away from the jail population which no doubt ' Justice Weinberg found that the complainant's account of the second incident was entirely implausible and quite unconvincing.'

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a man standing in front of a building: George Pell High court image for homepage © The Age George Pell High court image for homepage

Only two living people in the world really can be certain of what happened in the sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne on that fateful day in 1996. I've met plenty who are disturbingly convinced that Cardinal George Pell did or did not assault two choirboys, but that is often the nature of sexual abuse cases: only the accuser and the defendant really know.

The High Court has overturned the conviction by the County Court jury, upheld by the Victorian Court of Appeal, and has freed Pell. Reassuringly, the Australian legal system has operated throughout as it should.

High Court to hand down Pell decision

  High Court to hand down Pell decision Australia's High Court will hand down its decision on disgraced Cardinal George Pell's final appeal bid in Brisbane on Tuesday morning.Disgraced Catholic cardinal George Pell has spent more than 400 days behind bars for the sexual abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s.

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No fair-minded person would want Pell in jail if he didn't commit the crime ??? or, as the court found, there is reasonable doubt. But it is hard to claim he has faced an injustice, at least in the technical sense that he was granted every opportunity the legal system provides, including some of the finest barristers and appeals right up to the High Court ??? a privilege not granted to many.

Pell's travails have unfolded before several different audiences, who have reacted differently.

The various views, polarised from the start of these cases, have scarcely shifted. Public opinion in the wider community settled firmly against Pell after his testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where he blamed the demented and the dead and denied any responsibility. Nevertheless, he has had prominent defenders ranging from Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher to Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt.

George Pell wins High Court appeal against child sex abuse convictions

  George Pell wins High Court appeal against child sex abuse convictions George Pell wins High Court appeal against child sex abuse convictionsThe decision has been handed down less than a month after the High Court of Australia heard two days of intense legal arguments from the Cardinal's lawyers and Victorian prosecutors.

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Bolt lashed the ABC on Monday for the "suspicious timing" of the third Revelation documentary that covered allegations against Pell, aired last Thursday. But that program was scheduled well before the High Court announced the same day that it would give its ruling today, so any conspiracy - if it exists outside Bolt's mind - must include the High Court. Bolt needs to tread warily there.

Within the pews of the Catholic Church, people were more divided. Many conservative Catholics ??? especially the immigrants who form a large proportion of most churches today ??? felt such a crime was unthinkable, the evidence was impossible, and that Pell was a scapegoat for public fury at clergy sexual abuse in general and church cover-ups. They felt besieged and bunkered down. Alongside Pell, they are big winners today.

For a second group of Catholics, Pell's conviction was the last straw. In many cases, their connection with the Church had already loosened and they were intermittent Mass attenders at best. They simply left.

Hours after Australia's Cardinal Pell acquitted of sex abuse, pope decries 'unjust sentences'

  Hours after Australia's Cardinal Pell acquitted of sex abuse, pope decries 'unjust sentences' Hours after Australia's Cardinal Pell acquitted of sex abuse, pope decries 'unjust sentences'The court quashed convictions that Pell sexually assaulted the two choir boys in the 1990s and allowed the 78-year-old former Vatican economy minister to walk free from jail, ending the most high profile case of alleged historical sex abuse to rock the Roman Catholic Church.

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The third group, including most progressive Catholics, were also deeply dismayed by clergy abuse in general and Pell's conviction in particular. But they distinguished between the Church hierarchy and the faithful, whom the 1960s reforming Vatican II Council proclaimed actually constituted the church. They have distanced themselves from what, under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has been a mostly conservative hierarchy, and focused instead on their parish and their community.

A fourth group consists of one man: Pope Francis. He has been silent until now, saying he would not act until the legal process was complete. Now he no longer faces pressure to laicise (defrock) the cardinal, which will surely be a sizeable relief.

With Pell the highest Catholic official ever convicted of such charges (albeit that conviction is now overturned), there has also been huge international interest.

Pell's defenders certainly have one thing right. Like it or not, Pell was the public face of the Catholic Church in Australia for two decades as Archbishops of Melbourne, then Sydney, then a key Vatican cardinal ??? the highest-ranked Australian ever.

At a servo on the road to Sydney, Pell says he's 'very pleased' to be free

  At a servo on the road to Sydney, Pell says he's 'very pleased' to be free Cardinal George Pell is on his way to Sydney day after he was released following the High Court's decision to quash his convictions for child-sex offences. Cardinal George Pell is on his way to Sydney a day after he was freed from jail following the High Court's decision to quash his convi The 78-year-old spent his first night of freedom at the Carmelite Monastery in Kew, which survivor advocates decorated in ribbons and childrens' toys overnight.Cardinal Pell left the monastery on Wednesday morning, with a source confirming he was on his way to Sydney.

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That high profile was hugely important for survivors of clergy child sexual abuse because they saw his fall from grace as a prominent symbol of a shift in the power balance between victims and the Church. For so long, all the power was with the institution, which bullied, intimidated, silenced and, when it came to recompense, paid as little as possible. Now, in both criminal and civil arenas, that imbalance had seemed to be shifting, so the High Court decision will be devastating for them - but of course, that cannot justify an unfair conviction.

Lawyer Judy Courtin, who represents many survivors, put it this way, in the hypothetical: "Go back to the child who was assaulted. Their little mind is completely messed with and all their power is ripped away from them. If they get a criminal conviction against an abuser or win a civil case, they start to reclaim that power and it becomes an empowering, healing process."

Despite his criminal conviction now being overturned, Pell's legal tests may not yet be over. Further civil cases may be brought against the dioceses of Ballarat and Melbourne, with their deeper pockets thanks to insurance cover, and Pell could be a witness in those cases.

So Pell has not walked scot-free. In the Old Testament book of Two Kings, King David instructs his son and successor Solomon about Joab, the former commander of his army, "do not let his grey hair go down to the grave in peace". Pell is 78 and in frail health, and yet many battles may lie ahead. It seems likely that survivors of clergy abuse, in pursuit of justice, will ensure that neither will Pell's grey head go to the grave in peace.

Pell a 'scapegoat' for the 'terrible crimes committed in the church's name' .
George Pell says he was a "scapegoat" for the "terrible crimes committed in the church's name", during his world exclusive interview on Sky News. In the wide-ranging sit-down with Andrew Bolt, the acquitted Cardinal revealed his legal bills were largely paid by wealthy benefactors, while he kicked in his own superannuation to cover the costs.George Pell spoke in detail about his time in prison - describing it as a "grim place" where he shared a unit with ice addicts.

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