The Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, yesterday announced its 2-1 decision, dismissing Cardinal George Pell’s appeal from a verdict that found him guilty of charges of sexual abuse of minors. Immediately after the verdict both the Hoy See and the Church in Australia released statements with their reaction to the Court’s decision.
Thus he six year imprisonment sentence imposed on him in March of this year, has now been confirmed. It is to be noted that Cardinal Pell was to stand two separate trials but one of them was dismissed before it started as their was no admissible evidence against him.
The second trial, started in August 2018 when the Cardinal was accused of indecent acts and sexual assault of two choir boys in the sacristy of Melbourne’s Cathedral after noon Mass sometime at the end of 1996 and again at the beginning of 1997. This trial ended with a hung jury as no valid verdict was reached.
In November last year a second jury found the Prelate guilty and was sentenced to six years in prision.
A statement released by Cardinal Pell’s spokesperson said, “Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision”.
It notes that his legal team will be examining the judgement to “determine a special-leave application to the High Court” of Australia. The statement ends declaring once again that in spite of “the 2-1 split decision, Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence”. He has 28 days to file his appeal.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference reaction
The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, released a statement shortly after the decision was announced.
In it, he stated, “the Catholic Bishops of Australia believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly”. While acknowledging that the “long process of the trials and appeal of Cardinal Pell” has been a difficult moment for those who have survived sexual abuse by the clergy, it also acknowledged that Wednesday’s judgement “will be distressing to many people”.
Archbishop of Melbourne’s reaction
Melbourne’s Archbishop Peter Comensoli said in his statement that he “respectfully” received the decision and encouraged others to do so as well. He acknowledged the “complexity of the search for the truth” in Cardinal Pell’s case and said his “thoughts and prayers are with the man who brought this matter before the courts”.
The Archbishop expressed his readiness to “offer pastoral and spiritual help” to the plaintiff “should he seek it”, as well as the assurance that Cardinal Pell will be “provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence”.
Archbishop of Sydney’s reaction
Archbishop Anthony Fisher noted in his statement that the judge’s 2-1 split decision “is consistent with the differing views of the juries in the first and second trials, as well as the divided opinion amongst legal commentators and the general public”.
He then encouraged “everyone to maintain calm and civility”, as well as committing himself and the Archdiocese of Sydney to do everything possible “to ensure that past crimes are never repeated and that Church environments are the safest possible for children and vulnerable adults.”
Holy See’s reaction
The Director of the Holy See Press Office released a statement acknowledging “the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal”. The statement reiterates the fact that Cardinal Pell “has maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process”.
It concludes confirming the Holy See’s “closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse”.