The preposterous case against Cardinal Pell

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 27, 2019

Cardinal Pell has been convicted of molesting two young men. One of those alleged victims, who is now deceased, denied having been molested. Think about that for a moment: the cardinal stands convicted of a crime that, according to the supposed victim, did not occur.

There’s another alleged victim, of course. He waited years to tell anyone that he had been abused, but that’s not unusual in such cases. (Still it might be noteworthy that the only witness against Pell found his voice just at the time when the cardinal, in his campaign for financial transparency at the Vatican, was rattling the cages of big-money interests.) The accuser could not provide any evidence to back up his story, and that story was full of holes:

  • He claimed that he and the other alleged victims, who were choirboys, slipped away from the choir. But nobody noticed that they were missing, and other choir members find it unlikely that they could have stolen away unnoticed.
  • He claimed that they were in the sacristy drinking wine. He said it was red wine. But the only altar wine in use was white.
  • He claimed that the cardinal came into the sacristy alone and caught them. But the cardinal was invariably outside the cathedral after ceremonies, greeting the congregation. When he did return to the sacristy, he was always—always—accompanied by other priests.
  • He claimed that the cardinal parted his vestments and molested them. But the vestments that the cardinal wore did not allow for the movement the alleged victim described.

How did an Australian court reach a conviction, without any evidence, on the basis of such shaky testimony? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that “the fix was in”—that this was the genteel Australian equivalent of the “show trials” that resulted in convictions for other prelates who were unpopular with Communist regimes in the 1950s.

If there’s any justice at all in the Australian system, Cardinal Pell will win his appeal. But the appeal process will likely take months, and meanwhile he is in jail.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: jplaunder1846 - Mar. 01, 2019 9:39 PM ET USA

    I was not present at the Court so did not hear evidence one way or the other but I am uneasy about the Pell conviction. If he is indeed guilty then he deserves whatever punishment is meted out to him and his victim(s) every sympathy and support. But there are certain aspects of the case that raise my concerns especially the media and social hysteria that has operated against Pell for years because of his religion and his often criticised conservative views not helped by his brusque approach.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Mar. 01, 2019 5:12 PM ET USA

    It is worth adding that the first jury found cardinal Pell not guilty (10-2) ... but the Justice department did not like that verdict and found another group of jurors ...

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 01, 2019 6:05 AM ET USA

    Compare this with another high ranking cardinal who was actual child rapist and active homosexual predator for many decades - McCarrick. The Vatican announced recently starting its own investigation of Cardinal Pell, but not another word about McCarrick.

  • Posted by: leticia.cadiz4543 - Feb. 27, 2019 7:45 PM ET USA

    i'll offer a special prayer for Cardinal Pell......God bless him and strengthen him during this time of unfair accusation of his integrity.....may the Australian court reverse its conviction and uphold the truth