Cardinal Pell abuse conviction overturned; where does justice lie?

BOSTON, Mass., Apr. 7, 2020 – An Australian court today overturned Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse conviction. He was the highest ranking Catholic Church leader to have been convicted in the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal. The court’s ruling leaves clergy abuse survivors and supporters wondering where justice lies.

As with criminal trials in the United States, court systems in Australia may sometimes yield decisions relying less on presumed guilt or innocence and more on technicalities judges determine to carry more weight than a jury’s decision. In the case of Cardinal Pell, who was tried on a single count rather than facing all the accusers who charged him with sexual abuse, the judges overruled the unanimous judgment of the original jury, as well as a later decision by a lower appeals court, because, they said, the jury should have held doubts about the case.

Pell’s case illustrates, again, the difficulties sex-abuse victims face when they seek justice. No predator invites others to witness the abuse of a child, nor do they advertise their behavior or brag to the general public about their behavior. Clear-cut cases with a wealth of evidence seldom exist. That is why prosecutors typically seek to find more than one accuser. That is why the passage of time for this particular case creates such tremendous obstacles to overcome.

Yet in Australia, despite those hurdles, despite the death of one accuser and the focus on only a single one of the several who came forward, a jury in Australia found unanimously that Cardinal Pell was guilty. Seven justices decided to substitute their assessment for the decision of the 12 jurors, as well as to override the appeals court that first upheld the decision.

No wonder so many Catholics have lost faith in the Church and criminal justice systems here in the United States and in other countries when it comes to clergy sexual abuse of children.


Voice of the Faithful News Release, Apr. 7, 2020
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful’s® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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