This post gathers together the clearest and most useful commentary that has run in the media since Cardinal George Pell was found Not Guilty by the High Court of Australia in an unanimous 7-0 decision on April 7 2020.
(Last updated 4th August 2020) For the latest news see our blog page The Cardinal Pell Saga
For a similar assembly of commentary relating to Cardinal Pell’s trials and sentencing click here.
For a similar assembly of commentary relating to Cardinal Pell’s appeals, click here.
My time in prison, by George Cardinal Pell, First Things, August 2020
There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.
The Anatomy of a Pathology: An attempt at explaining the unhinged hatred displayed by Cardinal George Pell’s enemies, by George Weigel, The Catholic World Report, May 25, 2020
Those who imagined that the sliming of Cardinal George Pell would stop as of April 7, when a unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia acquitted him of “historical sexual abuse,” did not reckon with the climate of venomous hatred that has surrounded Pell for decades, fouling Australia’s public life, legal system, and politics in the process.
Royal Commission wilfully ignored Pell evidence, by Peter Westmore, News Weekly, June 13, 2020
A careful examination of the “findings” of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which accused Cardinal George Pell of covering up sexual abuse when he was a priest in Ballarat, and when an Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, shows that the Royal Commission wilfully ignored the overwhelming weight of evidence that contradicted its opinions.
Was the Royal Commission hand in glove with the “Get Pell” campaign? by Michael McAuley, MercatorNet, May 29, 2020
A close study of its “findings” reveals serious flaws.
Royal Commission obsession with Cardinal Pell laid bare, by Peter O’Brien, Big News Network, May 23, 2020
Summarising, Cardinal Pell has been made a scapegoat. Whether that was the intention of the Royal Commission, I cannot say. But that has certainly been the outcome of the almost obsessive examination of the actions and recollections of a man whose direct involvement in the management of these offenders was minimal at best. The blame falls squarely and overwhelmingly at the feet of Bishop Mulkearns, Archbishop Little and various Provincials of the Christian Brothers. Contrary to natural justice, and contrasted with the treatment meted out to Cardinal Pell by the pack-hunting media, these men are not today the objects of infamy and rebuke that they should be.
Misplaced blame for horrific abuse, by Monica Doumit, The Catholic Weekly, May 7, 2020
Although the unredacted portions of the report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse deal with a number of people, the media focus has been exclusively on Cardinal George Pell. The banner across the ABC report has labelled them “The Pell Papers”.
The ABC and Victorian Police, in the pursuit of Pell, by Chris Friel, Big News Network, May 3, 2020
In the wake of Cardinal George Pell’s acquittal, commentators have asked whether the ABC engaged in a witch-hunt. I shall not address this question directly but rather offer an example of what we might regard as the paradigm case of an anti-Pell witch hunter, the Twitter handle @LyndsayFarlow. I will do this by sampling just a single month of tweets by Pell’s antagonist in which the witch-hunt is evident. I shall go on to consider how it all began.
Reforming VicPol in a post-Pell environment, by Paul Collits, The Freedoms Project, April 20 and 22, 2020
Accepting that the Victorian institutions involved in getting Pell need reforming, this two-part essay explores the uncanny parallels between the Pell case here and similar cases in the UK, and draws lessons from these in charting a course towards reform.
Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.
After Cardinal Pell’s rightful acquittal, by George Weigel, First Things, April 15, 2020
The unanimous decision by Australia’s High Court to quash Cardinal George Pell’s convictions on charges of “historic sexual abuse” and acquit him of those crimes was entirely welcome. Truth and justice were served. An innocent man was freed from imprisonment.
In the state of Victoria, a criminal charge of sexual abuse can be brought to trial solely on the word of a complainant. No physical evidence of abuse having occurred is required; neither is any form of corroboration. This requires reexamination, and not just in Australia.
Pell’s kangaroo court, by Michael McAuley, MercatorNet, April 20, 2020
The experience of Cardinal George Pell gives fresh meaning to the term “kangaroo court”. Complaint. A cogent review of the whole case.
George Pell appeal judge’s shock admission: “I’m no criminal lawyer”, by Chris Merritt, The Australian, April 18, 2020
One of the two judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal who upheld George Pell’s wrongful conviction for assaulting choirboys was appointed to the bench after stating publicly that he was not a criminal lawyer. The Victorian Government selected Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell after a career that included working for a federal Labor frontbencher and running a politically charged legal challenge against the Howard government.
Two judges and the baying mob, by Keith Windschuttle, Quadrant Online, April 12, 2020
The two judges who made the majority decision in the Victorian Court of Appeal to reject Pell’s application and confirm his conviction, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and President of the Court of Appeal Chris Maxwell, are even more responsible than the jury for the continuation of Cardinal George Pell’s persecution.
Robbed of reputation and achievement, by Peter O’Brien, Quadrant Online, April 8, 2020
How probable is it that a middle-aged man, clever and ambitious enough to rise to the very top ranks of his profession, would risk everything by molesting two boys in circumstances where he could be discovered at any minute? Most people would say “not impossible but very improbable”, I would venture to guess.
George Pell witch-hunters: I don’t believe you, by The Mocker, The Australian, April 16, 2020
Despite his “I make no comment about the High Court’s decision” disclaimer, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews last week gave Australia’s highest judicial body the virtual middle finger after the full bench unanimously quashed all five child-sex offence convictions against Cardinal George Pell. In a message ostensibly directed to all victims of child abuse, Andrews tweeted “I believe you”.
Jeff Kennett responds to the letter of Wendy Harris and Sam Pandya with three tweets
The public can be confident in the administration of justice in Victoria, Victorian Bar website, April 16, 2020
In a letter to the Herald Sun on April 16, Wendy Harris QC, president of the Victorian Bar and Sam Pandya, president of the Law Institute of Victoria, issued a rejoinder to Jeff Kennett’s article of April 14, saying: “Jeff Kennett’s article, ‘Our faith in the courts has to be beyond doubt’, personalises different decisions by the Court of Appeal and the High Court.”
Our faith in the courts has to be beyond doubt, by Jeff Kennett, Herald Sun, April 14, 2020
The Chief Justice of Victoria’s Supreme Court, Anne Ferguson, and the president of the Victorian Court of Appeal, Justice Chris Maxwell, are the two most senior members of Victoria’s legal profession and both made a terrible error in law that saw Cardinal George Pell jailed for more than 400 days on child sex abuse charges.
George Pell witch hunt continues thanks to Victoria Police, by Miranda Devine, The Daily Telegraph, April 14, 2020
You would think Victoria’s top cop Graham Ashton would be too busy wiping the egg off his face to go in for round two. But lo and behold, on Tuesday, exactly seven days after the High Court acquitted Pell and released him from jail, comes yet another leak, one must assume from Victoria police, that they are investigating another sexual abuse accusation against Pell.
ABC’s groupthink on George Pell a sin against journalism, by Greg Sheridan, The Australian, April 16, 2020
I believe Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has made one of the most irresponsible statements by a premier in modern political history. And the ABC has become a relentless behemoth of unaccountable and vindictive power that persecutes designated enemies in a grievously unfair and unprofessional way.
Cardinal George Pell vindicated, by Allan Carlson, Ph.D., International Family News, April 8, 2020
My friend George Pell was freed from prison today, after Australia’s High Count unanimously quashed his convictions for sexually assaulting two choirboys 25 years ago while he was Archbishop of Melbourne. The evidence was so scanty and the charges so physically and temporally implausible, that only a fierce hatred toward Cardinal Pell among certain Melbourne police officials and prosecutors can account for his coming to trial at all.
The tortured road of the falsely accused, by Dr Wanda Skowronska, The Catholic Weekly, April 14, 2020
It is not just that Cardinal George Pell was falsely accused. As George Weigel put it so well, “the Crown prosecutors produced no evidence that the alleged crimes had ever been committed” while the evidence that was produced was inconsistent and flawed, beyond what could be reasonably expected with memory problems over time.
Pell injustice shows why we need to restore fairness to the law, by Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian, April 15, 2020
The unanimous decision of the High Court quashing George Pell’s convictions was the end of the matter for Australia’s most famous Catholic priest. But to understand the dreadful state of justice inside our courts, you need to go back to where this courtroom drama started. The decision by the primary judge preventing Pell’s legal team from using psychological evidence about the credibility of the complainant points to a much deeper dilemma about how the accused can defend themselves from allegations of sexual assault in 2020.
George Pell case is latest black mark for a Labor state of denial, by Edward O’Donohue, The Australian, April 14, 2020
Public confidence in the justice system is critical in a healthy democracy. In Victoria, following several questionable incidents and peculiar decisions, that public confidence is wavering. Cardinal George Pell’s legal saga has become a lightning rod for many for the crimes of the Catholic Church and its failure both to hold sexual abusers to account, on one hand, and to support the victims of this abuse on the other.
The curious case of Cardinal Pell: The power of the state was recruited to destroy Pell, by Fr Glen Tattersall, Rorate Caeli, April 10, 2020
“State power has been recruited in an effort to destroy Pell. This situation cannot be swept under the carpet.’’ So wrote Paul Kelly in The Australian on Wednesday April 6. A day earlier, the full bench of the High Court, by a 7-0 margin, quashed five convictions of child abuse for which Cardinal George Pell spent 13 months and 10 days in jail. There, he was denied the opportunity to celebrate Mass, and had no access to the Sacraments, for months on end.
ABC skirts public duty to fairly cover Pell, analyse Victorian justice system, by Chris Mitchell, The Australian, April 13, 2020
Were it run by a real editor, as its managing director is meant to be, the ABC would have given more prominence to last Tuesday’s High Court rejection of a jury verdict against Cardinal George Pell. Yet, on Tuesday April 7, on ABC local radio, News Radio and Radio National it was hard until noon to find a mention that the High Court’s verdict was a unanimous 7-0.
Cardinal’s critics still having a hard time with the truth, by Dr Kevin Donnelly, The Catholic Weekly, April 13, 2020
If ever additional evidence was required of the hostility and antagonism directed against the Catholic Church and Cardinal Pell as one of the Church’s most articulate and persuasive advocates, look no further than a number of the responses to the High Court’s decision to free His Eminence from prison.
ABC denies its Pell Witch hunt, then proves it, by Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, April 11, 2020
Can anyone believe the ABC’s claim that it didn’t vilify the innocent George Pell and help hound him into jail? In fact, in defending itself, it damns itself all over again.
Pell’s sad saga of suffering, by Frank Brennan, The Weekend Australian, April 11, 2020
From the start, the problem with the case against Cardinal George Pell was the way in which it was handled by the police.
Justice for Pell, by Julia Yost, First Things, April 10, 2020
The High Court’s decision in Pell v The Queen vindicates not so much Pell, whose guilt was always a dubious proposition, as Australian justice, which was on its way to disgracing itself. And it should embarrass those who proposed that only sectarians and abuse enthusiasts could doubt the case against Pell.
Call for inquiry to discover what went wrong in George Pell case, by Tessa Akerman and John Ferguson, The Australian, April 8, 2020
Terry Tobin QC said that if the High Court was right about the possibility of the offences not occurring, an innocent man had been sent to jail for 405 days in what was one of the biggest injustices in Australian criminal history. He said that in the medical field, root-cause analysis of misadventures was conducted, and the same standard of accountability was needed for the force and the OPP after the case was thrown out 7-0.
Rule of law “was not extended” to George Pell, by Fr Frank Brennan, Sky News, April 8, 2020
The High Court’s unanimous judgement quashing George Pell’s child sexual assault conviction shows how “shoddy” work by both the police and the Victorian Court of Appeal was.
Cardinal’s acquittal third in six months, by Karen Sweeney, AAP, April 8, 2020
Cardinal George Pell’s acquittal is the third time in six months Australia’s High Court has unanimously overturned a jury verdict. In each of the decisions since September, the acquittals followed failed bids in state appeal courts.
How the DPP allowed a sliding door to close on the prosecution of Pell, by Chip Le Grand, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 8, 2020
George Pell’s legal team privately petitioned Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions two years ago to abandon the criminal proceedings against the Cardinal, citing much of the same evidence that convinced the High Court to quash his conviction. Had the newly appointed DPP, Kerri Judd, QC, taken up this sliding doors moment, it would have exposed her office to public outcry but avoided the injustice of Cardinal Pell spending 13 months in jail for a wrongful conviction.
Cardinal Pell: A travesty of justice, by Mark Powell, The Daily Declaration, April 7, 2020
However, this case is memorable for another reason. It highlights the problem that the current legal process involving child sexual abuse has itself a number of potential flaws. The flood of publicity and the pre-trial shaping of public opinion by the ABC and politicians made it more difficult for Cardinal Pell to receive justice and a fair trial.
Statement from Cardinal George Pell upon his release from Barwon Prison on April 7, 2020
Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free, by Peter Westmore, News Weekly, April 4, 2020
The High Court of Australia has unanimously upheld the appeal by Cardinal George Pell against a majority decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal, reversing a terrible injustice suffered by the Cardinal last year.
The case against George Pell was misguided, unreasonable and vile, by Greg Craven, The Australian, April 8, 2020
The spectacular 7-0 decision of the High Court in favour of Cardinal George Pell is impossible to describe in conventional terms of winning or losing. It can be understood only in terms of impact. The impact of wrongful imprisonment and vile insult in the case of Pell. The impact of years of legal anxiety, and the final crushing collapse for the complainant.
The Cardinal Pell case highlights the serious need for legal reform, by Frank Brennan, The Tablet, April 7, 2020
The legal process has caused needless pain to the complainant, to Pell and to the community, and exposed failures in the justice system in the state of Victoria.
Father Mark Withoos, Cardinal George Pell’s former private secretary, speaks with Alan Jones, April 8, 2020
Love George Pell or loathe him, we should all be grateful that justice has been delivered, by Frank Brennan, The Australian, April 8, 2020
Some Australians, including many victims of child sexual abuse, revile George Pell. Others hold him in high esteem. The majority of Australians fall into neither camp. In the midst of controversy and with allegations of gross criminal activity, these Australians expect the police, the prosecution authorities and the courts to do their work diligently, imposing punishment on proven criminals and protecting the rights and liberties of all other citizens.
Cardinal George Pell’s critics cannot run from the High Court’s decision, by John Ferguson, The Australian, April 7, 2020
The fallout from the 7-0 High Court decision will be profound. The result is not about what people think of the 78-year-old cardinal or what they might think he did, but it is all about whether the Victorian justice system worked when he sent him to jail. It clearly didn’t. It was dysfunctional in this case.
George Pell High Court ruling vindicates those who kept the faith, Tess Livingstone, The Australian, April 7, 2002
There was always doubt about the grotesque offences for which Cardinal George Pell has spent 13 months and 10 days in jail, most of it in solitary confinement. Two things kept Pell going through the disgraceful miscarriage of justice and several years of torment leading up to it – his innocence and his faith. He’s kept on “an even keel’’ spiritually, he told friends, with his Bible and Breviary.
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