What was missing from Pell verdict responses



Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual assault, child abuse.

When Springbok cricket captain Hansie Cronje was accused of match-fixing in April 2000, his compatriots refused to believe it. He was a beloved sporting icon, a humble and upstanding young man, a devout Christian and an athlete celebrated across the cricketing world. It was inconceivable that he would take bribes in exchange for losing a match.

Amanda Vanstone (Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)As news of his alleged treachery ricocheted across the world and his supporters absorbed the shock of the allegation, a reference to his unassailable character started doing the rounds. 'The pope, maybe. But Hansie? Never,' they repeated ad infinitum, emphatically refuting the abhorrent claim that their god-like hero might be capable of committing a criminal act.

Yet within days, Cronje had retracted his denial. He'd succumbed to Satan's temptation, he explained. 'The devil made him do it,' repeated those unable to accept their idol's deeply shameful downfall.

I was reminded of this refusal to acknowledge the fallibility of those we know to be good people when the George Pell saga broke last week. Influential public figures swiftly published treatises either obliquely casting doubt on the Cardinal's guilt or brazenly claiming his innocence after it was announced he'd been found guilty of child sexual abuse in December last year.

The raft of arguments transformed newspapers and online journals and TV shows into veritable courtrooms in which fresh instructions were directed at the jury; for days afterwards, commentators retried Pell in the hope of securing an acquittal — if not in reality, then at least in the court of public opinion.

Fr Frank Brennan SJ expressed disappointment at a jury which, he concluded, had 'disregarded' criticisms of the evidence; he guarded (however diplomatically) against turning Pell into a scapegoat, as though the victim's testimony was secondary to some larger force intent on destroying Pell.

Former ambassador and politician Amanda Vanstone defended the character reference she'd provided for Pell (along with other leaders such as Tony Abbott and John Howard), saying she was merely stating the facts of the man's character as she 'had found him'. As though her own impression of Pell remains fundamentally true and unaltered, even after his conviction, and therefore usurps that of both victim and jury.


"The victim himself has, for the most part, been eliminated from their commentary, rendered both utterly invisible and hauntingly present as the person who has (by clear implication) falsely accused Pell."


Media commentator Andrew Bolt boldly declared that he didn't accept the verdict, as if his personal and unapprised judgement was of any importance beyond the influence it might bring to bear on public opinion. And the vice-chancellor and president of ACU, Greg Craven, opined (after telling his staff that the university would be making no comment until legal proceedings had been completed) that the media's biased treatment of Pell had resulted in an unfair trial. Forgetting, somehow, that the slew of supportive statements to which he was now adding his voice had been amplified by an ever-hungry media and might, in turn, derail the victim's right to justice.   

This rush to alternative judgement is vexing on many counts: the bare fact that Pell has been convicted in a court of law; the contempt for the jury and the justice system, motivated by the unprovable belief that Pell is a good man who has been falsely accused and scapegoated; the fact that an appeal is yet to be heard; and the extraordinarily powerful voice afforded prominent people who wish to defend an accused man. If this is indicative of the power exerted by those who hold sway, is it any wonder abuse within the church flourished for so long?

But most manifestly egregious is the fact that not one of these observers has heard the surviving victim's testimony first-hand. Indeed, the victim himself has, for the most part, been eliminated from their commentary, rendered both utterly invisible and hauntingly present as the person who has (by clear implication) falsely accused Pell.

Instead of seeking to understand how victims internalise, process and describe their experience (factors which are comprehensively explained in an open letter to Bolt by Clare Linane, wife of abuse survivor Peter Blenkiron), critics have instead used the victim's reported memory of events to prove that they couldn't possibly have happened.

To discredit this victim (and, by extension, all victims) in this way, to disbelieve him out-of-hand in the wake of both the verdict and the royal commission into child sexual abuse, is deeply imprudent. Has the church (and the pliant public) learned nothing from the commission's damning revelations?

Perhaps it's just too difficult for some to accept that he might be guilty, for in so doing they would be forced to acknowledge their own inability to effectively judge a man's character, their complicity in disavowing the story of a survivor of abuse. Better to doubt the victim, then, than to doubt themselves.

Moreover, such an admission would be akin to taking a match to one of the world's most powerful institutions, the Catholic Church. For the conviction of Australia's highest-ranking Catholic is effectively a conviction of the church itself. While less senior offenders can be lopped off like withered branches, the culpability of a man who occupies such a hallowed position indicates a rot that runs down to the church's very roots.

As supporters of Cronje discovered all those years ago, an admission of guilt helps people come to terms with the wrongdoings of those they once believed guiltless (tragically, the cricketer died in a plane crash two years after the scandal broke; some people still believe he was murdered for his 'sins').

In the absence of such a plea, it is up to the court to decide. This it has already done, and will do again during the appeals process. When the final judgement is passed, whichever way it falls, we will all have to accept it, no matter the esteem (or lack thereof) in which we hold the accused.


For confidential counselling and support call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au



Catherine MarshallCatherine Marshall is a Sydney-based journalist and travel writer.

Main image: Amanda Vanstone (Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Catherine Marshall, George Pell, clergy sexual abuse



submit a comment

Existing comments

I have been involved with accused religious men at court and believe them in proclaiming innocence despite them being found guilty. There is a prevailing trend to believe anyone making an accusation. Juries can get it wrong. I think it is not as simple as saying we forget the victim in the George Pell case. Memory in historical cases has been called into question before. I do believe victims have been abused but various factors can affect the details when recalling a case.
Tim Moloney | 08 March 2019

Thank you Catherine for an insightful response. And for the link to Clare Linnane's open letter, the most lucid, compassionate and intelligent response I have read in the noise around Pell. Her humility in all this is remarkable, as she conveys a very complex response to the mechanisms of power.
annemaree dalziel | 08 March 2019

The final tribunal is one that no one can escape. Whatever of the fallibility of human courts, of trial by the court of public opinion, of influence by leading lights in the Australian community, it remains the only court that is infallible. It appears that everyone has an opinion as to the guilt of Pell on the charges laid. As many have said, it is high time to accept the verdict of our human courts as the best we can attain in this world. It is time to carry through the response of the Royal Commission by having all of those institutions named signing off on the compensation to victims. Why the delay? Will it send some institutions broke? So be it. Better a bankrupt institution that has sought to make amends than one which exists indebted to those whose lives its members have ruined.
Ern Azzopardi | 08 March 2019

Pell is guilty because the court has found Pell guilty. It’s possible that under appeal the court may find him innocent. Should that outcome occur, will we all respect the judgement of the court ? Will we argue it is stacked in favor of the powerful? Will we lament failing abuse survivors once again or, will we all agree that the proper functioning of the legal system ultimately allowed justice to prevail? Would we accept a successful appeal as proof of innocence ? Would we be silent in the advent of such an outcome? We are of course arguing that this rule should apply to those who think Pell is innocent. It’s reasoable that people ask questions and express doubt. The strength of our society and indeed our legal system rely on this fundamental right. Catherine, will you defend the legal systems verdict if an appeal is successful?
Patrick | 08 March 2019

Thank you, thank you, thank you Catherine for writing something sensible about this fiasco that has become the post trial Pell conviction. I think it borders on criminal for these powerful people to use their positions of authority to voice opinions in such a biased manner. You are spot on when you say that none of them has paid any notice to the victim's voice. The jury heard him and they made a decision based on the veracity of his evidence. Meanwhile, the guilty party gave no evidence at all and employed the best defence money could buy. It demonstrates to me that whilst at one level the establishment accepts that historically victims were not listened to, the implication that they are now given an ear is untrue - they are STILL NOT being listened to. Sadly, I suspect Pell's appeal will be successful because of the influence of the powerful. And that is going to be an even greater miscarriage of justice.
Martin Killips | 08 March 2019

How can anyone who has followed the Royal Commission or the career of George Pell think for a moment that last week's verdict was a bolt from the blue? Or that Pell is some saint who has been badly done by? It was a mistake for Frank Brennan to warn against treating Pell as a scapegoat. The scapegoat is, by definition, innocent. Pell is not an innocent. It's the victims of child sexual abuse who are the innocents. The crimes committed in Ballarat and elsewhere in Australia inside the church are on the record. It is a travesty to go about pretending anything else. Not only did he know, he created all sorts of ways of deflecting attention and closing down discussion and access. This is not a secret, it's plain as day.
REFLECTIVE | 08 March 2019

I'm a keen letter-writer to newspapers, a defect of character I can live with! In a letter I wrote last weekend, I spoke about three people only being involved in this case: two living and one deceased. Before the law these three are equal. One young man has come forward, told his truth and has been believed by his peers. The older man in the trial is entitled to appeal the verdict and has done so. A family grieving a deceased son is also involved. Whatever the outcome of the appeal people have been heard.
Pam | 08 March 2019

It is perhaps admirable of Eureka Street to publish a diverse range of views on this issue. However, one can’t help thinking there should be certain natural limitations put on this principle. Such generosity should not extend to publishing anything at all, we could do without this tissue of banal platitudes and scurrilous insinuations, for instance. Of several galling features of this article, perhaps the most galling is the tic-like repetition of the words 'As though' – this occurs several times, in each case signifying the writers own groundless imputations in place of the mentioned figure’s own comments. Why, it's as though the job of the character witness is not to provide their own view of the character, but rather to gesture piously to the victimhood of the complainant! It’s as though no jury has ever wrongly convicted someone in history. It’s as though any criticism of the gaping flaws and outrageous contradictions in the case, any mention of the obviously significant broader context in which it takes place, is a nothing but a sacrilegious assault on the purity of the law, and the dignity of victims everywhere! According to the logic of this article, Pell could be as guilty as OJ was innocent, but we are compelled, nonetheless, to bow our heads in solemn acceptance. In actuality, though, the law is made more robust for being criticised when it goes astray. The law itself is not threatened when people point out anomalies in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, and nor so in the case of Pell. The fact that Pell’s innocence is ‘unprovable’, as the writer suggests, implies therefore that his guilt is likewise. This, then, ought to rule out much of the commentary by Linane and others the author purports to admire. Indeed, if we take proof to involve absolute certitudes, rather than reasonable doubt, this is certainly the case. But the legal system does not require this certitude, and nor do we as public reasoners dissecting the case. We have a right to weigh the evidence as it is presented to us. To my mind, both Claire Linane and Andew Bolt have made salient points regarding the case, worthy of thought and consideration. This criticism has perhaps been unduly harsh, and I should end with some more positive note. For it counts as a virtue of this article, that it is merely moralising. David Marr’s recent Guardian article, in which makes no mention of his own previous, altogether more circumspect portrait of Pell, manages both to be moralising, salacious, and hypocritical. But this is certainly the feat of a more experienced journalist!
josh | 08 March 2019

'...the extraordinarily powerful voice afforded prominent people who wish to defend an accused man.' - he has been convicted, not just accused. Good piece, thank you.
Karen | 08 March 2019

Wise words, Catherine! You and John Warhurst have today jointly resurrected ES's reputation for fair and just reporting as well as that of Australian Catholics for abiding by the ref's decisions.
Michael Furtado | 08 March 2019

Thank you, Catherine, for your well argued article that points out some of the ways in which people respond to a shocking experience that contradicts some firmly held beliefs or prejudgments. I recall how various people initially disbelieved that Rolf Harris had sexually abused some young people. Surely not such a funny nice entertainer like Rolf. Some of us respond to revelations that shock us from grief or anger. Others simply cannot believe that someone from the upper levels of society, business, the professions, popular entertainers or elite athletes could possibly be guilty of a serious crime. Others in the media, perhaps for gain or to establish a reputation may like to show the public that they can influence verdicts and decisions. This occasion puts us all on trial about our own motives in the stance we take as we wait without prejudice for legal processes to take their course.
Alex Nelson | 08 March 2019

What an excellent article. This paragraph is the centrepiece for me. "Perhaps it's just too difficult for some to accept that he might be guilty, for in so doing they would be forced to acknowledge their own inability to effectively judge a man's character, their complicity in disavowing the story of a survivor of abuse. Better to doubt the victim, then, than to doubt themselves." This powerful paragraph depicts my personal experience. Longterm mutual friends (and their friends) of both parties, have acted towards me in this way, albeit by way of withdrawal rather than open criticism. It is no wonder the current victim who took to the stand in the Pell case wishes to remain anonymous. On the other hand when one goes public one certainly finds out who one's friends really are. When mutual friends cannot believe what is shown to them even by the Church itself it is a further instance of abuse fallout. However as a wise long term friend said to me: "Jen, get yourself a new set of friends". And that I have, as many others came forward to support me and show me true friendship through acceptance of and belief in the stand I had to take. Thanks Catherine for an excellent piece that pierces to the heart of the matter for victims against the powerful. What many forget is that, not only is the victim groomed but whole communities are groomed. This is why they struggle to believe what is before them.
Jennifer Herrick | 08 March 2019

When Bishop Collingwood came back from the Roman confab about sexual abuse in the Church, which should have been a forum for victims instead of comfortable clerics, he said, "The image of the Church has been trashed" or words to that effect. Big Deal! His concern for the image seems to have displaced concern for victims and concern for victims. As they say when trying to understand, "Follow the Money".
Michael D. Breen | 08 March 2019

R2: - recognise equality of women - reform governance - review celibacy I call for a second reformation of the church “Carpe Diem” Three steps to bring church forward before it become irrelevant All Gr8 points above Djt
David tuke | 08 March 2019

Catherine, you seem to be ignoring two salient points. The first is that trials under the civil law aren't about establishing whether a person committed a crime. They're about establishing guilt 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Unlike divine law, human law is limited. To be good law, it needs principles and protocols to prevent verdicts being subverted by emotion. George Pell may have abused the two boys. But even if he did, he's innocent under the law, until he's proven otherwise beyond reasonable doubt. That's an essential principle of good law, and must be protected for the sake of our whole liberal democracy. (I have no doubt this leads to guilty people walking free - ask most raped women who turn to the law for redress - but to change the basic principle means that emotion will trump hard evidence). Second point. It simply isn't true, as you seem to imply, that all critics of the verdict believe that Pell couldn't have done it because he's such a good man and good priest. Some of us are genuinely concerned about the process by which the verdict was reached. Personally, I'm not an admirer of Pell, though I doubt that he's so stupid or so overcome by lust as to rape boys in the Cathedral sacristy after High Mass. I'm very concerned about our legal system, whose integrity will be in jeopardy if the current verdict is upheld.
Joan Seymour | 08 March 2019

Thanks Catherine for and excellent and timely article. I agree with you as you write, "Moreover, such an admission would be akin to taking a match to one of the world's most powerful institutions, the Catholic Church. For the conviction of Australia's highest-ranking Catholic is effectively a conviction of the church itself. While less senior offenders can be lopped off like withered branches, the culpability of a man who occupies such a hallowed position indicates a rot that runs down to the church's very roots." As one 'renegade' priest has recently said, the Catholic Church has about 4 or 5 years to transition to a church where the laity, rather than the clergy, have the power, or the Catholic Church will be history. The Catholic cardinals who met at the Vatican recently were dressed in ornate Roman robes and word purple skull caps. How inappropriate for those who claim to follow Jesus! This gathering at the Vatican reminds me of the story of the Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Move over cardinals and give the Catholic Church a fighting chance to survive by allowing the laity to govern.
Grant Allen | 08 March 2019

Innocent or guilty this divisive man will have to find somewhere else to live if he is acquitted. His beligerent aggressive style and insistence on unquestioning obedience to the Church makes him an unsuitable witness of the compassion and mercy of Jesus found in the gospels. If he is acquitted let's hope he has the sense or sensitivity to Australian Church needs to retire. He, like many of our Church leaders have let down the people for whom they have the pastoral care in liturgy renewal realsitic moral theology.
Fr Ted | 08 March 2019

Thank you Catherine. No need to say too much more - again thank you. And like many others, thank you ES. Elizabeth
Elizabeth | 08 March 2019

Thank you Catherine for articulating so clearly what many of us have been thinking.A great article and as Michael Furtado says a resurrection for the ES we thought we knew.
Margaret | 08 March 2019

Spot on Catherine.I am reading “Cardinal” and I am Only 50 pages in.This is before the allegations about Pell abusing children.The victims’ accusations were never taken into account by the Church.This book is compelling and shocking - l repeat - shocking reading.
Jim Coghlan | 08 March 2019

If the word of the complainant is now to be taken as absolute and irrefutable, which it seems to be in the Pell case and in the logic of Catherine’s piece, then there is no point in a trial. Indeed, the concepts of innocent until proved Quilty, or proof beyond reasonable doubt are now abandoned. This is a huge change in our jurisprudence. Finally, the whole concept of character reference which is about life BEFORE this case and its outcome is also null and void.
Eugene | 08 March 2019

Well Eugene, it would make a welcome change from the word of the cleric being taken as 'absolute and irrefutable', but that's not really what has happened, is it? The word of the victim was tested under oath for several days under cross-examination and not found wanting.
Ginger Meggs | 09 March 2019

It would surely be more helpful and respectful to the two people on either side of this particular court conviction if we all just took a big deep breath, chilled ourselves out, self embargoed our own opinions, voices, pens and keyboards, and let due legal process take its lawful course. It is worth reminding everyone here of two critical facts of our legal system: First, the legal process of criminal trial is not primarily emotion driven, but evidence driven - though emotion may well drive later critique of that process. Second, none of us - except for the two principal parties (believed victim and convicted perpetrator), prosecution and defense teams, judge and jury - have seen or heard all of the evidence the jury saw and heard. Not Andrew Bolt, not Fr Frank Brennan, nor messrs Tony Abbot, John Howard, and Amanda Vanstone, nor any others. None of us then are in a position to argue guilt or innocence, but only to accept the verdict of those who were in that position; pending of course the due process of appeal. So let's all of us - journalists, media commentators, readers, listeners and consumers generally - respect the people involved, and just wait quietly for due legal process to take its full course?
Dr Francis Donovan OAM | 09 March 2019

A court decision is regarded by many legal experts, and ordinary citizens, as highly questionable because they cannot conceive how, on the evidence, a jury could possibly be satisfied of the guilt of the accused “beyond reasonable doubt.” The defendant has appealed. University of Melbourne law professor Jeremy Gans says, “I think there is a good chance that the court will decide that the jury ought to have had a doubt.” Lawyer and human rights advocate, Fr Frank Brennan, attended the trial and wrote a careful and considered analysis of the decision. Yet for some who agree with the verdict, it seems that even that careful analysis is somehow beyond the pale. With such attitudes there’d be no hope there for Lindy Chamberlain or Alfred Dreyfus. What an awful place our society has entered into!
Ross Howard | 09 March 2019

“Travel broadens the mind”. In more ways then I ever imagined. I’ve been travelling the planet for over 40 years. Travelled and lived in many developing countries, against much overt and covert opposition from my large catholic family. Seen so much. Very few things, and behaviours, surprise me at this point of my life. Was I surprised that Pell was convicted of sexual abuse of minors. I was. Do I think the court system was fair. Yep. Do I think Pell is guilty. Absolutely, no surprises for me there. Was Frank Brennan’s article a surprise. No. Exactly what I expected. Catherine, I have such admiration for you. You have given support to more people then you can ever imagine. To those that have suffered immensely. I also would like to thank you so, so much.
HFA | 09 March 2019

Thank you Catherine. Thousands of complaints around the world against the institutuion (the numbers are out there). Yet some people would rather deny there is a problem because it questions the fabric of their very own existence. Questioning the church is still a very big no in the minds of many. People aren't defending Pells character they are defending their own version of reality. Which they can sense is flailing, so they get incensed, like when you take candy from a child.
Jason | 10 March 2019

Catherine, I think this article, while making some excellent points, buys into the binary view yet again. Pell can be falsely accused but the victim can also be honest. It is not beyond possibility that the victim was abused but that the vagaries of time and memory and emotion have confused some details, such as the identity of the abuser. the unreliability of memory is renown in the legal and psychiatric world. This does not mean that the victim has acted in bad faith in such a case. The media really lacks nuance when discussing this issue. Social media even more so.
Jojo | 10 March 2019

Thanks Ginger, but it should not be a matter of choosing to believe one man you like against another you don`t, but on the facts of the case. What the Appeal will need to deal with is whether completely uncorroborated evidence of an apparently random sexual attack (where indeed one of the presumed victims who is now dead, actually denied it occurred), in highly unlikely circumstances in a busy public place, by an archbishop in full commodious regalia immediately after Mass, with inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the living complainant`s evidence, in reality can leave no room for reasonable doubt. And all this in the context of a vicious public campaign against the archbishop (who to date had a clean legal sheet in regard to sexual deviance), in the media and on line; can this really not have prejudiced the jury`s view and their choice of one person against another?
Eugene | 10 March 2019

To be fair to Frank Brennan, he simply raised anomalies relating to the garments that Pell was likely to be wearing and to the normal proceedings after an archbishop celebrates mass at the cathedral. His point is that it is difficult to understand how the events could have happened as portrayed by publicly available information arising from the court proceedings. This does not constitute disrespect for the court. I have no admiration for Pell, nor do I presume that he is incapable for committing the crimes that he is accused of, but I am concerned about the anomalies as presented by Frank Brennan. I hope they will be resolved one way or the other, by the appeal process. Excessive reverence toward priests and the reputation of the Church contributed significantly to the pain and suffering arising from paedophilia perpetrated by the clergy and religious. Let's not do the same for to the judicial system by assuming that it is infallible. Respect and reverence do not imply blind submission. It is OK to ask questions, discuss and seek clarification. The judicial system will be respected only to the extent that its proceeding are clear and transparent. Justice needs to be done and seen to be done.
Michael Taouk | 11 March 2019

Indeed Ross Howard, what an awful place our society has entered into! I can only wonder if there will be the same level of denial if the Appeals Court upholds the guilty verdict. A victim of sexual abuse had the courage to take his case to the police. The police investigation found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a brief to the DPP. The DPP determined there were reasonable grounds to initiate a prosecution. The trial by jury delivered a guilty verdict. We who were not on the jury have no basis for assuming the jury did not consider all the evidence or was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt with the evidence. The appeal will determine that. But think what people who continue to raise their “reasonable” doubts are saying to the victim whose evidence was examined in minute detail throughout the whole legal process. They can dress it up in terms of compassion and empathy, but the bottom line is “despite all you have been through, we don’t believe you”. Surely the victim who has been through so much already deserves at least as much respect as shown by some to the man found guilty in a fair trial.
Brett | 11 March 2019

Catherine, the appellate Court will decide if the victim's testimony should have raised a reasonable doubt. If they do then Pell will remain as minister for the Economy at the Vatican and retain his Cardinal's rank. RC Statistics: " 4,444 people reported they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia between 1980 and 2015." Washington Post Feb 26. Now most of the major orders have joined the NRS and individuals can apply for limited compensation. Time as always, slips away and most allegations come to light many years later. This Sept 7 2018 AP News, Argentina: "At one of its schools in northwestern Mendoza province, at least 20 children say they were abused by priest Nicola Corradi, priest Horacio Corbacho and three other men, who were arrested in 2016. Dozens of students of the institute in Italy say they were similarly abused for decades, some allegedly by Corradi. The Vatican knew about Corradi since at least 2009, when the Italian Provolo students went public with tales of abuse and named names. The Vatican ordered an investigation and sanctioned four accused priests, but Corradi apparently never was sanctioned for his crimes in Italy." Who'd want Francis job?
Francis Armstrong | 12 March 2019

Those giving references for George Pell have only seen one side of a very complex individual. This man moved priests accused of sexual assaults of children from parish to parish or, in the case of Dovetown left him there to abuse hundreds of children. Patents appealed to Pell, he ignored them, teachers then appealed to Pell, he ignored them too. The School Principal appealed to Pell after a young girl ran screaming from the confessional had been bought to his office. What did Pell do- had The Principal sacked. So the abuse continued. read “Hell on the Way to Heaven” to get an inside to the other side of Pell. He destroyed John Ellis- his health, his marriage and his business. Then admitted that he knew all along that the guy had been sexually abused. His treatment of the Fosters re the sexual abuse of their two daughters is sickening. This evil side of Pell seems to be ignored by Bolt, Devine, Howard and Vanstone. They only saw the man craving for power who would present to them a completely different personality. So easy to lift his robes to force oral sex.
Mary Bentley | 17 March 2019

One crucial aspect missing from the Pell verdict and subsequent discussion is something that the Royal Commission attached great importance to, viz. the matter of aural confession. Because the practice has virtually died out, many of your correspondents saw one solution to this vexed question as ending aural confession in Australia, so that no priest is subjected to the pressure of having to break the seal of confession in instances of child abuse. It being Lent, which is a time when Catholics traditionally observe and carry out our Easter duties, including Confession, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Cardinal Pell's incarceration is likely to fuel a line of questioning that will play an influential role in his appeal. This means that his Confessor is more than likely to be asked if the Cardinal has admitted to the child abuse of which he has been found guilty and sentenced. If the Cardinal's Confessor declines to answer that question, as I would expect him to, this would almost certainly add to the suspicion and, indeed, the burden of circumstantial evidence that would disadvantage the Cardinal's case in his appeal. Haven't we Catholics created a hellish rod for our own stubborn backs!
Michael Furtado | 25 March 2019

The gist of what Marshall implies is that a naive faith in the Church has been found wanting in the past, and that now at least Catholics ought really to respect external institutions (the police, the jury system, the media). But in reality I find Marshall naive, for what matters is that with intelligence and infinite patience we try to get to the facts of the matter. This is not something that we should out-source. Whether we like it or not, with the Pell case it is the jury system (among other institutions) that is now on trial. And this "trial" will go on even after June 5th. https://www.academia.edu/38575027/Pell_and_the_Jury
Chris Friel | 27 March 2019

I was sexually abused as a child - not by any religious person - and the problem is not that I forget, but that I can't forget. Even now, in my 60s, it is still there, always in the background.
Jen | 24 April 2019

Excellent article. The clearest analogy I have read, to date, regarding the emotive responses so far from Pell's supporters. And the link to Clare Linane's very informative open letter more than adequately explains the delays in reporting by the victims of child abuse - one of the main issues those supporting Pell raise as evidence the victims should be doubted. Thank you Catherine for adding some good sense to the debate.
Martin Killips | 05 June 2019

The Cronje comparison is, with respect a poor one. Firstly Cronje was a revered figure in South Africa, an on this basis no one believed the allegations made by Indian Police. Of course, when video recordings of his interactions with bookmakers emerged, there was conclusive evidence that no body could ignore. Cardinal Pell is on the other hand, even in Catholic Circles a revoked figure who has had due to his own polarising nature several unfounded allegations made against him such 2002, some of which have proven to be lies. Further there is nothing in the nature of the audio evidence of taped conversations that nailed Cronje which could be used against Pell. Only one sole complainant’s testimony. And against this the evidence of 20 witnesses whose testimony was basically ignored by a jury.
Neil | 15 June 2019


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up