The trials and sentencing of Cardinal Pell
Updated May 18, 2019
To balance public debate on the case, we invite people to read the articles below and share on social media, download and print articles you consider most relevant, and distribute widely.
For a similar assembly of commentary (March 2019) relating to Cardinal Pell’s appeals, click here.
For a similar collection of articles on Cardinal Pell’s release, click here.
Two leading articles on the Pell trials
Peter Westmore: Pell conviction a most unusual case, The Catholic Weekly, March 6, 2019. Mr Westmore, former President of the National Civic Council, attended the two trials of Cardinal Pell. Also, see Mr Westmore’s interview with Andrew Bolt on Sky News.
Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted? Patrick J. Byrne, President of the National Civic Council, News Weekly, February 23, 2019.
About this resource page
This page presents many commentators who have questioned the conviction of Cardinal Pell on child sex abuse charges. Some commentators are Catholic. A few are Catholic but not friends of Cardinal Pell. Many are non-Catholic or not religious.
Variously they point to the lack of evidence for a conviction, contrary evidence from the witnesses brought by the prosecution, and the public trial by media before charges were laid that made the process a persecution not a prosecution. Consequently, as some point out, Victoria’s legal system is as much on trial as Cardinal Pell. The glaring problems with the trial and frenzied media attacks on the Cardinal brings into question the possibility of a fair trial or appeal.
Justice for victims of child sexual abuse is not achieved if a person is wrongly convicted and made a scapegoat for the heinous crimes of others. We point to the infamous legal cases of people wrongly convicted, such as Lindy Chamberlain in the Northern Territory in the 1980s, Alfred Dreyfus in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and, more recently, Josephine Greensill, a Melbourne teacher who was wrongly convicted in 2010 of child sexual abuse and spent 2½ years of a seven-year sentence in prison before being acquitted.
Several news reports have repeated that the first trial of Cardinal Pell ended in a hung jury, 10-2 in favour of acquital. That result, however, cannot be verified and may indeed be inaccurate. Please keep that in mind while reading or listening to the reports linked to below.
Cardinal Pell’s application to appeal the case before the Victorian Court of Appeals is set for June 5–6, 2019.
The latest…. (fresh posts at the top) * Highly recommended
Boosting Billy Doe? Chris S. Friel, Academia, April 17, 2019
Keith Windschuttle notes similarities in the Pell allegations with the Billy Doe” case, a notorious case in Philadelphia where an ex-altar boy complained of historic abuse against some Catholic priests. We should be careful about setting too much store on Billy Doe.
* Murmur in the Cathedral: What did Milligan Know? Chris S. Friel, Academia, April 18, 2019
Louise Milligan’s book, Cardinal, cannot stand critical scrutiny. The book relates the events alleged to have taken place in St Patrick’s Cathedral leading to the conviction of Cardinal Pell, but a microscope reveals the fault lines. This paper speculates about what Milligan thought about the allegations. I argue that the author sensed that the various strands in the allegations were inconsistent and improbable and as a result she tried to disguise that fact.
Did Victoria Police bug Cardinal Pell’s mobile?, Andrew Bolt, The Bolt Report, May 17, 2018
Monsignor Charles Portelli talks about the leaking to the media of a private phone call between himself and Cardinal George Pell.
Easter in jail: the travesty of the Pell case, George Weigel, The Catholic World Report, April 16, 2019
An innocent bishop is being made into a ritual scapegoat for the malfeasance (and worse) of his predecessors in high Church office.
On the downfall of George Pell, Don Aitkin, Reflections on Australian Society (blog), March 8, 2019
I am used to microphone-wielding reporters pursuing alleged paedophiles, serial rapists and other miscreants, asking them whether they are sorry for their deeds, usually with one or two bystanders looking on. But I have never seen before the visceral hatred expressed by onlookers as Cardinal Pell arrived for his trial. It was simply horrifying.
* Pell and the jury, Chris S. Friel, Academia, April 10, 2019
In the absence of public knowledge of the complainant’s testimony in the Pell case, the author discusses Louise Milligan’s account in her book, Cardinal, as a proxy account of the events that made up the charges that led to Cardinal Pell’s conviction.
News Weekly LETTERS page has more important correspondence on the case of Cardinal Pell
The borrowed testimony that convicted George Pell, Keith Windshuttle, Quadrant Online, April 7, 2019
A trial from over 10 years ago in Philadelphia in the United States and reported in Rolling Stone magazine in 2011 has several parallels with the trial that led to Cardinal Pell’s conviction.
Today’s public burning and those to come, Paul Collits, Quadrant Online, March 13, 2019
Did Cardinal Pell simply come along at the wrong time, and in the wrong place (Victoria), and so suffered the perfect anti-Catholic storm which has delivered him his unspeakable legal nightmare?
The Pell case: What is says, where it’s going, Paul Collits, Quadrant Online, March 2, 2019
The day Cardinal Pell’s conviction was announced, most of his many (mainly silent) supporters and others … are forced to witness the shock and horror reactions of the many in relation to his conviction on five charges related to the Melbourne matters.
* Cardinal Pell trial, Facebook page, ongoing
“A page to facilitate the sharing of media items regarding the Cardinal Pell trial ahead of the appeal due to be held in June 2019.”
‘Christian fascists go to hell’: Australia’s new lynch-mob mentality, Natasha Marsh, Catholic Herald, March 28, 2019
Many used the sentencing of Cardinal Pell as a springboard to air broader grievances against the Catholic Church, Christianity and anything the Cardinal stood for.
When a jury gets it ludicrously wrong, Peter Wales, Quadrant Online, March 15, 2019
Justice Peter Kidd’s remark prior to sentencing that his comments and sentencing were made on the assumption that the offences took place as alleged is striking and unusual.
* News Weekly LETTERS page has some important correspondence on the case of Cardinal Pell
Australian media ‘made Pell personify the sins of the Church, De Omnibus Dubitando Est blog, March 16, 2019
* Pell’s vestments: the prosecution’s impossible claims, QED, Quadrant Online, March 18, 2019
If you have difficulty imagining the layers of clothing a bishop wears when celebrating a Mass, watch this video.
DPP moves to jail dozens of editors, journalists over reports after Pell verdict, Adam Cooper, The Age, March 26, 2019
Dozens of Australian editors and journalists could face prison for contempt of court over allegations they breached a suppression order in reports published after Cardinal George Pell’s conviction.
Prayers for Cardinal Pell, Deborah Gyapong, The Anglican Use Society, March 23, 2019
Cardinal Pell advised Archbishop John Hepworth, who had been sexually abused, to go through the Melbourne process he had created to handle sexual abuse claims when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell case reminds the world why cardinals wear red, Fr Roger Landry, National Catholic Register, March 20, 2019
“This is what the red colour of their habits means: the colour of blood and love.” —Pope Benedict XVI
For the lynch mob, priests are guilty until proven innocent, Miranda Devine, The Daily Telegraph, March 16, 2019
On Friday the Victorian Court of Appeal quietly acquitted a priest who has spent a year in jail after a jury convicted him of raping a young boy half a century ago. As is the case with Cardinal George Pell, the jury convicted John Tyrrell on the uncorroborated allegation of a sole complainant.
Review of Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, Gerard Henderson, The Sydney Institute website, 2017
Cardinal is not an objective analysis of either the Catholic Church or Cardinal George Pell. Rather, it is the case for the prosecution.
George Pell: a case in which justice never had a fair chance, Greg Craven, The Australian, February 27, 2019
All my life, I have joined in the chorus that our justice system is the best in the world. With the case of Cardinal George Pell, I am not singing quite so loud.
Cardinal George Pell’s defence to child sex charges centred on ten key arguments, Shannon Deery, Herald Sun, February 27, 2019
Cardinal George Pell always denied any and all wrongdoing, slamming child sex allegations against him as “deranged falsehoods”. His defence relied on these 10 key arguments.
Our Dreyfus case, George Weigel, First Things, March 6, 2019
In December 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French Army was convicted of treason on the grounds that he had given military secrets to France’s mortal enemy, Germany. The charge was false; Dreyfus, a Jew, was framed. The conviction of Cardinal George Pell in December 2018 on charges of “historic sexual abuse” is this generation’s Dreyfus Affair.
* Character references submitted to the court for Cardinal George Pell can be read here.
* Cardinal Pell trial observer calls guilty verdict ‘incomprehensible’, Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, March 14, 2019
A witness to both of Cardinal George Pell’s trials, Peter Westmore, says the prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy is a victim of ‘trial by media’ and the guilty verdict is ‘utterly unfair’.
‘Faith, innocence’ sustain stoic leader in darkest hour, Tess Livingstone, The Australian, March 2, 2019
For all the vitriol hurled at Pell, supporters are outraged, anxious for his safety and distraught over what they are convinced is a gross miscarriage of justice.
Analysis: What’s next for Cardinal Pell? Ed Condon, Catholic News Agency, March 13, 2019
For the time being, Cardinal Pell remains a prisoner of the state and a sitting cardinal – a combination unprecedented in modern times.
What Newman can tell us about the Cardinal Pell verdict, Fr George W. Rutler, Crisis Magazine, March 14, 2019
An 1852 libel case against John Henry Newman holds instructive parallels to the Cardinal Pell case.
Pell case attracts inaccurate views, Gerard Henderson, The Australian, March 16, 2019
it is important that reporters and commentators to be factual – especially in view of the international attention the Cardinal Pell case has attracted. Unfortunately, the coverage so far has had many blemishes – which go to a basic misunderstanding of the law and how it operates.
How Pell became the Vatican’s sacrificial lamb, Miranda Devine, The Daily Telegraph, February 27, 2019
The guilty verdict against Cardinal George Pell is devastating. It’s devastating because I don’t believe that Pell could be guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys in a busy cathedral after Sunday Mass.
Four Corners: the third trial of Cardinal Pell, Terri M. Kelleher, News Weekly, March 13, 2019
The Four Corners program seemed designed to explain away some of the questions raised by the evidence presented at the trials.
* George Weigel in conversation with Patrick Coffin, The Patrick Coffin Show, March 12, 2019
American commentator George Weigel speaks extensively on the verdict meted out to Cardinal George Pell
* The case against Cardinal Pell, Julia Yost, First Things, July 3, 2017
An older article, but still relevant on every point and a great backgrounder to the case
Graceless new book takes hatchet to Cardinal Pell, Peter Westmore, News Weekly, June 3, 2017
The title of the book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, says it all: Cardinal Pell is guilty, and must be brought down.
Pro-Pell and pulped as a consequence, Quadrant Online Editor, Quadrant Online, March 13, 2019
An edition of Hobart’s Catholic Standard was withdrawn and pulped on account of a column by Professor David Daintree, of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, that defended Cardinal Pell.
George Pell and the jury, Keith Windschuttle, Quadrant Magazine, March 12, 2019
Enough of the George Pell case has been publicly discussed to demonstrate that the jury could not have come to its decision on the basis of reason and evidence alone.
It’s not uncommon for jury verdicts to be questioned, Gerard Henderson, The Australian, March 9, 2019
Reporting and commentary about R v George Pell has revealed that many journalists have little knowledge of the legal system, while others have projected their views into the coverage.
Calling Cardinal Pell’s prosecution what it is: religious persecution, Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, March 1, 2019
Miscarriages of justice do take place. The case of Cardinal Pell, though, was not a miscarriage akin to a mistake. It was done with police and prosecutorial malice aforethought.
The Pell fallout continues, and it has implications for the whole Church, Steve Skojec, March 5, 2019
If the reporting is to be believed, the guilty verdict was obtained without a shred of corroborating physical evidence or testimony.
A litany of improbabilities, Greg Daly, The Irish Catholic, March 7, 2019
The details which have come to light have certainly made scepticism about the verdict seem justified.
Cardinal Pell in prison: A view from Hong Kong, Pablo Elton, March 5, 2019
What has happened has shocked and hurt many people, especially Catholics. The general feeling is one of disbelief and surprise.
George Yeo on Cardinal George Pell’s conviction: ‘He has strong grounds for appeal’, Martino Tan, mothership, March 8, 2019
Former Singaporean foreign minister George Yeo says he believes Cardinal Pell is innocent “on the basis of what I know of the case and of the man”.
Why Pell has been falsely convicted, Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, February 27, 2019
Cardinal George Pell has been falsely convicted of sexually abusing two boys in their early teens. That’s my opinion, based on the overwhelming evidence. He is a scapegoat, not a child abuser. In my opinion.
Fr Frank Brennan answers critics of his defence of Cardinal Pell, March 7, 2019
“My article in The Australian on the Pell verdict has elicited quite a range of responses.”
Cardinal Müller: Cardinal Pell’s conviction ‘against all reason and justice’, Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, March 6, 2019
The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told the Register that the allegations against Cardinal Pell are “absolutely unbelievable”.
The vendetta against Cardinal Pell . . . His guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt, John Young, The Wanderer, March 5, 2019
it is absolutely certain that Cardinal Pell’s guilt was not established “beyond reasonable doubt”.
The factors that could see Pell freed, Charis Chang, news.com.au, March 7, 2019
Questions hang over how George Pell’s trial was conducted and whether certain decisions will mean his conviction is overturned.
‘Perverse’: Barrister Robert Richter won’t lead Cardinal George Pell’s appeal bid, SBS News, March 6, 2019
The senior lawyer had labelled the verdict “perverse”.
Triumphalism over Pell verdict shows civilisation just a veneer, Greg Barns, Hobart Mercury, March 4, 2019
We can no longer pride ourselves on “Australia being a civilised society”.
How will you feel if Pell’s appeal is successful? Amanda Vanstone, former federal Senator, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 4, 2019
“What, however, is particularly worrying is the suggestion that because he has now been convicted I should not speak as I found him.”
Victorian judicial system did not give Pell a fair trial, Tom Percy QC, West Australian, March 2, 2019
Pell had to take his chances with a jury selected at random from a community that had been subjected to several years of vitriolic media.
The ‘getting’ of George Pell, Geoffrey Luck, Quadrant Online, February 27, 2019
The conviction of George Pell demonstrates the power to skew justice of the emotional claptrap surrounding the serious crime of child abuse. … The jury’s decision is reduced to a distorted balance of probabilities, with motivation never examined.
Catholics, sex and Cardinal Pell, Peter Wales, Quadrant Online, February 27, 2019
One of George Pell’s first actions on becoming Archbishop of Melbourne was to set up clear processes for dealing with complaints of sexual abuse.
Beyond reasonable doubt: Was Pell convicted without fear and favour? John Silvester (a Walkley award-winning crime writer, columnist and a co-author of the best-selling books that formed the basis of the hit Australian TV series, Underbelly), The Age, February 26, 2019
Pell was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt on the uncorroborated evidence of one witness, without forensic evidence, a pattern of behaviour or a confession. It is a matter of public record that it is rare to run a case on the word of one witness, let alone gain a conviction.
Truth and justice after the Pell verdict, Fr Frank Brennan SJ, Eureka Street, February 26, 2019
The events leading up to the trial “tend[ed] to shift not the legal, but the reputational, burden upon an accused person to prove innocence rather than the prosecution to prove guilt”.