Fine words and dramatic gestures are not enough!

When the first-ever meeting in the Vatican of cardinals and bishops from around the world to discuss clerical sexual abuse was announced back in the autumn, hopes were high among Catholics. Finally, it seemed, the courageous, mould-breaking Pope Francis was going to force through root-and-branch reforms, so long discussed but so long delayed, to tackle the scandal that has done such damage to the reputation of the institution he leads.

Yet even before 180 bishops assemble this Thursday in Rome for this unprecedented four-day summit, the chance of such prayers being answered is looking increasingly remote. The Vatican press office has been downplaying the event as simply an opportunity to remind these senior clerics of the patchy efforts that global Catholicism has made this past quarter century to tackle the tidal wave of thousand upon thousand of cases of priests sexually molesting, abusing and traumatising children in their care.

To be fair, a reminder is no bad thing, since there is a long list of bishops around the globe – from Chile to America, Australia to Austria – who still make negative headlines because they refuse to take this crisis seriously, and put protecting the institution before victims of predator priests. Even in the Vatican itself, the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith – traditionally the enforcer of orthodoxy – has refused a very basic request from the Commission for the Protection of Minors, set up by Francis in 2014, to send a letter acknowledging receipt of every new report of abuse that reaches it.

There is so much that the summit could insist be done better, but it will require the Pope to come out fighting. And on that score, the omens are not good. On his return flight from his latest overseas trip – to a World Youth Day gathering in Panama at the end of last month – Francis offered scant encouragement. “The problem of abuse will continue,” he told reporters, as if it were as inevitable as the sunrise. “It is a human problem.”

He sounds as much in denial as his predecessors. When the first  shocking disclosures of clerical abuse emerged in the USA, Canada and Ireland in the 1990s,  Pope John Paul II referred to those clerics who abused children as a “few bad apples” who had infiltrated the priesthood.

His successor, Benedict XVI, confronting a culture of cover-up where abusive priests had been moved by their bishops from parish to parish to carry on preying on children, pointed an accusing finger instead at the high number of closeted gay men in the clergy. Though it flies in the face of all secular, scientific and psycho-sexual orthodoxy, the leaders of Catholicism (as many as 80 per cent of them gay themselves, according to a new book published this week by French sociologist Frederic Martel) persist in equating same-sex adult sexual attraction with the violent rape of children by grown men.

Francis resorted to an even more outdated explanation in September of last year. In language that owed much to medieval theology, he blamed it all on the devil, a malign outside force targeting the Church and tempting otherwise good priests to sexually abuse children.

So, is there really any possibility that this gathering in Rome might just be a Road to Damascus moment for Catholicism in a crisis that has shaken it to its core?  Naively, perhaps, I continue to hope so.

Back in June 2011, I wrote in these pages of the profound blow to my own faith of learning that our beloved priest and family friend, Father Kit Cunningham – who had married us, baptised our children, one of whom was named after him – was not the eccentric but essentially good man of God that I had always believed him to be, but rather a child abuser whose past crimes had been known to his religious superiors, who didn’t breathe a word of it, even at his funeral.

The logical thing would have been to walk out then, but I clung to the notion that the failings of individuals – even those in positions of power – didn’t make redundant the Catholicism that is so much a part of me.  And so, I have persisted, but it has not been helped when church leaders trot out the same discredited excuses in place of mature reflection on how the institution needs to change.

Perhaps the most misleading excuse given is that Catholicism is just the same as others, including the BBC, that have been faced charges over harbouring those who abuse children.  However, an accumulating range of studies suggests that Catholicism is different. The number of paedophiles found in the male population at large is usually put by experts at anywhere up to 4 per cent. Yet the recent Australian Royal Commission on child sex abuse by Catholic priests suggests that the figure in clerical ranks is as high as 7 per cent.

That’s almost double, and should be ringing alarm bells as to why.  Even the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romanohas suggested that the absence of women in leadership roles plays a part.  Statistically women are much less likely to be sexually abuse children.  Yet Catholicism clings to the almost laughable explanation that, because there were only men at the Last Supper, only men can be priests.

The product of this stubbornness is a secretive male, clerical culture at the top of Catholicism, where large numbers of supposedly celibate priests routinely break their vows of celibacy. Because they aren’t called out by colleagues – for fear of damaging the good name of the institution – they in their turn have felt unable to call out, or discipline, their colleagues who present their own sexual abuse of children as an equivalent lapse.

It is an appalling moral failure and needs to end now, but that will involve rethinking an entire approach to sexuality in Catholicism that is peculiar, punitive and often plain perverse. The Jesus of the gospels had almost no interest is such matters. Why does the Church leadership?

It is a question that would take more than four days to answer, were it even to make it onto the agenda in Rome this week.  Instead, expect more make-do-and-mend, fine words, dramatic gestures, and then crossing of fingers and hoping it will all go away.

It won’t. And faithful but despairing Catholics will continue quietly to depart the pews in increasing numbers.

Peter Stanford


An edited version of this article by Peter Stanford appeared recently in The Observer under the title of ” Why is my church still excusing the abusers”.
Peter Stanford has a new book coming out in March – Angels: A Visible and Invisible History  dealing with how and why and where we have believed, across all faiths, in angels.


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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    The usual inconsistency: on the one hand glorifying “vows of celibacy” and on the other calling for “rethinking an entire approach to sexuality in Catholicism that is peculiar, punitive and often plain perverse. The Jesus of the gospels had almost no interest is such matters. Why does the Church leadership?” The double-binds and double standards pullulate on every side as priests are made the scapegoats for people’s sexual confusion.

  2. Christine Lynch says:

    The main problem in The Church as far as sexual abuse is concerned is not so much paedophilia (which in the Catholic Church is below the average – still NOT acceptable) but pederasty, i.e., sex between a man and a boy. In the Philadelphia Report on sexual abuse within the Philadelphia area by Catholic clerics approximately 80% of crimes were on pubescent and teenage boys. Pope Francis refuses to deal with the fact that abuse in the Church is a homosexual problem and not until a zero tolerance of homosexuality within the clergy and with the seminarian admission process is addressed will the REAL problem of sexual abuse (and consequent lack of spirituality and respect for priests and bishops) be solved.

    The problem as regards sexual abuse within the Church is almost entirely a homosexual problem.

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    Interesting words from Fr. Federico Lombardi who will act as moderator of the summit. He said “I am absolutely convinced that our credibility in this area is at stake. We have to get to the root of this problem and show our ability to undergo a cure as a church that proposes to be a teacher or it would be better for us to get into another line of work.
    He then said that the church must tackle the problem “with dept and without fear…… If we don’t commit ourselves to fight against these crimes, in society and in the church, then we are not fulfilling our duty”

    Interesting words also today from Cardinals Burke and Brandmuller. I wonder what would Frédéric Martel have to say about that.

  4. Christine Lynch says:

    Thank you Phil. I read the Crux Now article. There is no question that the abuse of girls is abhorrent. In the words of Jesus “it is better they had never been born” in relation to any adult that takes away the innocence of a child. Damning words indeed.

    For decades many seminaries have admitted young men with homosexual inclinations and have severely discouraged and demoralised men that are “traditional Catholics” (I know many seminarians that had to hide their spirituality whilst in Seminary. They had to hide the fact that they recited the rosary, knelt at the consecration, wanted adoration etc..,). See the book “Goodbye Good Men” – it Is a real eye opener.

    So whilst ALL abuse is abhorrent, homosexuality is responsible for around 80% of the abuse (see the Philadelphia Report and MANY other investigations – Philadelphia is not an isolated problem). See also the activities of the former Cardinal McCarrick who preyed on seminarians and young men (now defrocked). This figure of 80% cannot be ignored.

    It is not the homosexual problem that is being used as a smokescreen but precisely the opposite. Paedophilia (by which the general public assume abuse by an adult man on a girl) is being used as a smokescreen to hide the fact that homosexuality is rampant (and I mean rampant) within the Church. Until the Church is cleansed of all sexual filth the Church will continue to be a church that is despised because of the institutionalised nature of the abuse.

  5. Frances Burke says:

    Paddy @ 9

    I agree with you about Cardinal Marx. He really understands the pain and suffering of survivors and there is a great picture of him in the middle of survivors at a news conference during the gathering.

    I have a question. Who gave the order to destroy this evidence that Cardinal Marx talks about.

  6. Paddy Ferry says:

    That’s a good question, Frances. How would we ever know. However, what I am sure about, from what I have read over the years, is that John Paul II was the main instigator of the policy of cover-up. Now, of course, he is a saint!!

  7. Jane Ireland says:

    In the book Potiphar’s Wife by Kieron Tapsel it says that sexual abuse was covered by the political secret. This came in in 1922.The bishops were not allowed to inform the secular authorities.The rot came from the top.Pope Benedict asked President Bush for immunity from prosecution. In the books written by Tom Doyle,Richard Sipe and Jason Berry it was noted that the records were passed to the papal munch who would claim diplomatic immunity. It is worth noting that the nuncio did not turn up to an inquiry into the English Benedictine Community when requested. There has been something wrong with the conscience of the hierarchy of the church for a very long time.It was not a failure of the system. It was the system.

  8. Paddy Ferry says:

    Christine, I was really taken aback by the strident tone with which you expressed your certainty that clerical sexual abuse is all caused by the levels of homosexuality in the institutional church. I thought about you again when I opened last weeks Tablet tonight and read its leading article which I share below and especially the lines:

    “Conservative critics of Pope Francis maintain that the two situations are linked – they allege that homosexuality is the root cause of the abuse crisis. The evidence does not bear this out: scientific studies show that homosexual men are no more likely to be abusers than heterosexual men”

    I think Peter in the original article above says much the same thing.

    So, Christine, I have to say I think you are wrong.

    My “education” in this area has come from my reading of Marie Keenan’s excellent book, “Child Sexual Abuse & the Catholic Church — Gender, Power, and Organisational Culture”. For anyone still puzzled, shocked or even still distraught by this whole horrible phenomenon, as I was, then I must recommend that you read Marie Keenan’s book.

    And as for homosexuality itself; well, I feel if you really believe God made us all in his image and likeness we must believe he made 90-95% of us heterosexual and the other 5-10% homosexual and, most importantly, that he loves us all equally.

    The curia needs to open its doors

    A thoroughly toxic gay culture exists inside the Vatican, marked by double standards, hypocrisy, concealment and guilt. This is the explosive charge made by the French researcher Frédéric Martel in his book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy. After talking to hundreds of curial officials, who appear to have been extraordinarily frank with him, he has concluded that the majority of Vatican priests at all levels of seniority are gay. In a sympathetic but mildly sceptical review by Timothy Radcliffe in last week’s Tablet the former Master of the Dominican Order came to the conclusion that: “If only half of what he claims is true, we are still faced with revelations that are stunning.”

    Publication of Martel’s book coincides with the start of a meeting in the Vatican attended by the presidents of more than 100 episcopal conferences worldwide. It is intended by Pope Francis to ensure that the Catholic Church at last takes a firm grip on the crisis brought about by the shameful revelation that thousands of children have been sexually abused by Catholic priests, all over the world, and that their bishops have too often been complicit in covering up their crimes.

    Conservative critics of Pope Francis maintain that the two situations are linked – they allege that homosexuality is the root cause of the abuse crisis. The evidence does not bear this out: scientific studies show that homosexual men are no more likely to be abusers than heterosexual men. But the climate of dishonesty is a relevant factor. Turning a blind eye to one could encourage turning a blind eye to the other. There is a further connection that conservatives will not like – between a clandestine gay culture and clericalism.

    The integrity of the Vatican as a source for the moral authority of the Catholic Church will be damaged by Martel’s book. One of his observations is that those church figures who denounce homosexuality most emphatically are likely to be homosexuals themselves. The late Cardinal López Trujillo, appointed by Pope John Paul II to head the Pontifical Council for the Family and assiduous promoter of traditional Catholic sexual teaching in the John Paul era, is alleged by Martel to have been a sadistic sexual predator.

    At the root of the situation he describes is a tradition of Catholic teaching that denounces homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual activity – even within stable, loving relationships – as always gravely sinful. If a teaching may be judged by its fruits, the evidence that the Vatican has become a gay “closet” appears to weigh heavily against it. The teaching has created a climate of fear, concealment and guilt, which in turn leads to hypocrisy and secret shame. Those are soul-destroying influences, which must make the Vatican a spiritually and psychologically damaging place to live and work. A teaching that creates such misery and leads to such havoc must be looked at afresh.

    Pope Francis seems to be intuitively aware of all this and determined to reform the Vatican. He should be radical. There is no reason, for instance, why the curia should be staffed almost exclusively by male priests and bishops. A substantial influx of lay men and women, particularly the latter, would make a huge difference. Such a mixed community could provide a fresh outlook on human sexuality from a Gospel perspective. If Martel’s book proves anything, it is that this is now seriously overdue.

  9. Frances Burke says:

    I’m sure there are plenty of people in the Vatican that could answer the question Paddy. Maybe with all the transparency that is being mooted at the moment an answer will be forthcoming!! However, I won’t be holding my breath.

  10. Joe O'Leary says:

    The news about Cardinal Pell is not new, except in Australia where it was under embargo:

    The swimming pool allegations collapsed last Tuesday, and the December convictions about cathedral incidents are quite likely to be overturned on appeal:

  11. Paddy Ferry says:

    This, below, is from the Tablet FB page tonight. Seems there is a bit of history to all this.

    When I think of Pell I always remember his quote in relation to the imposition of the then new liturgy. He said the whole process was “a model of collegiality.” He was speaking at a conference on the liturgy at Foto Island and the surprising thing was that nobody on this site knew who had organised it.

    Tablet FB page.
    “The canonical investigation of Cardinal Pell announced by the Vatican is not the first church investigation of allegations against him; in June 2002, then-Archbishop Pell stepped aside as archbishop of Sydney while an independent church review board investigated a claim that he sexually abused a 12-year-old boy at a youth camp in 1961 while a seminarian. The board found insufficient evidence to corroborate the accusations.”

  12. Mary Burke says:

    Anthony Ruff at Pray Tell pointed out two or three years ago that Vox Clara no longer appeared in Annuario Pontificio. George Pell had been its chair. In light of Magnum Principium his comment about a model of collegiality rings exceptionally hollow.

    The roles played by at least three Irish members of Vox Clara committee are a major embarrassment, bordering on the shameful.

  13. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe@20, I think you are being grossly disrespectful to the memory of Alfred Dreyfus. I am sure you know that this sordid affair became the great symbol of modern day injustice and the principal cause of the scandal was the antisemitism of the ultra right wing Catholicism of those in the higher echelons of the French military. Dreyfus was the only Jew to make it into the high command of the French army, the General Staff.

    Despite the poor man eventually being completely exonerated, the French authorities could not act against those guilty of framing him such was the power of his enemies, the right wing Catholics, in the army.

    Joe, I am now becoming weary of telling you how wonderful I think you are.
    But I am sincere when I say that you have always been one of the most informed and informative contributors to this site. And the most honest, principled and enlightened and I, for one, greatly appreciate what I have learned from you.

    But, but, but, Joe, having said all of that, I continue to be completely baffled by the fact that you are still trying to defend or mitigate the indefensible, the sexual abuse of children by priests and the cover up of these horrendous, unspeakable crimes by bishops. This, Joe, is something about you that genuinely puzzles me.

  14. Joe O'Leary says:

    Mary, we are all being bullied by Pell every time we have to pray not “stand in your presence and serve you” but “to be in your presence and minister to you” — if it is true that Pell insisted on this mistranslation of “astantes coram te” because the faithful should not be standing but kneeling…

    Paddy, the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven also waited some 16 years for exoneration as Dreyfus did. Now we know that in all these cases popular anger swayed the system of justice and the system had to face the “appalling vista” of being wrong. People ranted against supporters of these unjustly accused and imprisoned people because of the horrible, unspeakable crimes of the IRA — and they were wrong to allow themselves to get their wires crossed in this way.

    Australia is currently divided about Pell just as France was divided about Dreyfus. That you should see me as in any way slighting Dreyfus is an indication that you are missing the point completely. Would you say that Zola’s J’accuse! would be misplaced if Dreyfus was not such a splendid chap? Or that Pell does not merit the same sense of justice because he is allegedly a not-so-splendid chap?

    Btw, I think it’s incorrect to see Pell, as some do, as a careerist. He is more a zealot in the mould of John Paul II.

  15. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, you said at the beginning of this that we had to let due process take it’s course. Now, that process is complete and Pell has been found guilty. So, why can you not accept that.

    I read during the week that he will now not appeal the verdict. I will not go into details but you will have read the most recent defence offered by his solicitor and the word “vanilla” was used. I thought to myself has the whole world gone completely and absolutely bonkers.

    One final word –I hope –on Pell. I knew a priest here in Edinburgh who worked with Pell in ICEL. This priest, now deceased, was a well-known fence sitter. He was an ambitious man and his brother priests reckoned that is why he was a fence sitter.

    However, a number of years ago there was a report that Pell was coming to Westminister. I mentioned this to my friend and, suddenly – a fence sitter no more -, he immediately replied “an absolute bully”

  16. Mary Burke says:

    In this 2017 article from Commonweal, entitled ‘Revisiting Ligurgiam Authenticam. Part 1. Vox Clara, Rita Ferrone makes the following devastating comment: (Interestingly Ferrone’s money is on Father Anthony Ward S.M. as the author of L.A. He was later dismissed from Rome in 2014.

    “The problem is that Vox Clara is an instrument of curial control over a process that rightly belongs to the local bishops’ conferences, according to Vatican II.”

    At least three Irish people have been involved with Vox Clara. Archbishop Michael Neary (Tuam) was a member of the committee; Msgr James O’Brien (Cloyne) was a delegate to the committee; and Reverend Joseph Briody (Raphoe) was a special assistant. So, anyone who allowed themselves to be part of this committee colluded in exerting curial control over conferences of bishops in relation to an area of responsibility granted to bishops by the Second Vatican Council.

  17. Joe O'Leary says:

    As everyone is saying, the process is not complete until the appeal. See

    Pell is very unpopular in Australia, yet there is an amazing amount of unease with this verdict, different from other similar cases. No need to prove he’s a bully — I remember his priests calling him “Pell Pot” decades ago.

    As has been pointed out many times this week, the defence lawyer who talked about “vanilla” was following legal rules in trying to minimize the offence of which his client was convicted so as to reduce the sentence, without contesting the verdict. That would be out of order, though he did point out that his client denied guilt (and made it known outside court that an appeal was forthcoming).

    The minimization tactics are normal in cases of sex offences at the sentencing stage, and often strain credulity. But the “vanilla” language was stupid and counterproductive. In fact the case was Richter’s to lose and his reputation must now be in tatters. He behaved flamboyantly in court and we saw in his sentencing plea that he puts his foot in his mouth.

    “I read during the week that he will now not appeal the verdict.” Where did you read that? It would be sensational news if true.

  18. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, I think you confused his abandonment of an application for bail with abandonment of the appeal. The former is mentioned here:

    Pell has virtues of pluck, Stoicism, and humour. He talks of his jail stay as a retreat (someone should send him the Ignatian “Spiritual Exercises”). Imprisonment in Toledo was the making of St John of the Cross. Don’t tell me I’m dragging the saint down by this comparison, since God can raise anyone up.

    Meanwhile there seems to be a change in people’s attitude to Pell himself:

  19. Joe O'Leary says:

    Doubt grows….

    I see one commenter draws the Dreyfus analogy: “Australia’s “Dreyfus Affair”. The political persecution of an innocent man because of the Religious institution he represents.”

    Louise Milligan reported the whole story in highly coloured form in her book:

    The complainant is motivated by anger over his friend’s death in 2014 which he persuaded the friend’s mother was as a result of the original abuse that made him give up that school and turn to drugs. It’s a compelling story that fits neatly with the generally believed typology of abuse and its effects, and complainant is said to have told it powerfully in his two and a half days of video link evidence. Both he and his lawyer won the jury over, while Richter’s antics and Pell’s silence left them cold.

  20. Joe O'Leary says:

    Correction, the second trial did NOT include live evidence from the complainant but only a video of his evidence at the earlier trial.

    Correct story is here:

    “the court was closed to everyone except the judge, lawyers and jury during the complainant’s roughly four days of testimony. This was given via video link in the first trial, and a recording of this was played in the retrial, with some minor edits that were agreed to by prosecution and defence.”

    (But in that case how can the jury have been kept in the dark about the earlier mistrial, as is alleged also in this report? “Jurors in the retrial were not told about the mistrial.”)

    Incorrect story is here (stemming from Reuters):

  21. Eddie Finnegan1 says:

    The virtual mob lacks two virtues of the real street mob: the latter works off its fury with a bit of exercise and fresh air.
    Seems to me George Pell deserves his appeal and perhaps a better defence lawyer. Meanwhile the more indignant among us should, like Pell, go into ‘retreat’ for a while. Any stick or hammer (?martel?) whether liturgical, financial, being slightly Irish-Australian, bullying tendency, Marcinkus resemblance etc seems fine to beat him when he seems to be down if not out. There must be some other re-Pellent charge, however ersatz, I could rake up:

    “I do not like thee, Cardinal Pell;
    The reason why, I cannot tell.
    But this I know, and know full well,
    I cannot stand thee, Cardinal Pell.”

  22. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I cannot find the article where I got the impression–mistakenly, I now accept –that Pell had dropped his appeal. There has been so much written about this but I do remember that it was the same artice where I discovered Robert Richter’s new strategy in his defence of Pell where the word “vanilla” was used and I think I lost my way a bit at that stage.

    There was an excellent leader article in last weekend’s Tablet, “The Church has not gone far enough” which was principally a review of the Summit which I share below but which also mentionred the Pell case. You probably will not like reading this, Joe.
    However, immediately after that piece there is another article by Frank Brennan SJ whom I always found to be a very sensible man and his analysis of the Pell case helps me to understand your thinking on the case, Joe.

    The Church has not gone far enough

    As a working hypothesis, George Pell has to be treated as guilty
    News of the conviction of the Australian Cardinal George Pell for child abuse has swept away whatever confidence leaders of the Catholic Church might have been feeling at the conclusion of their summit in Rome. Was that summit a success? It will ultimately be judged by results, but for all its shortcomings and disappointments, it has moved the Church forward in addressing one of the greatest crises it has ever faced. The Pell case is a giant step backwards, not least for the Church in Australia. It has been shamed time and again by the most appalling evidence not just of the systematic abuse of minors by clerics but of a systematic failure – for which Cardinal Pell himself bears some responsibility – to root out the abusers.

    It would be a mistake for the Church to take much comfort from the prospect of an appeal against Pell’s conviction to a higher court. A jury of twelve honest citizens has carefully sifted the evidence in his case and found the prosecution case credible beyond reasonable doubt. It would be disrespectful to them and to the Australian criminal justice system to conclude that they must have been swayed into a perverse verdict by anti-Catholic prejudice or by hostile public opinion. It is not infallible, but the jury system, with its safeguards, is the best method so far invented for sifting truth from falsehood.

    As a working hypothesis at least, therefore, Cardinal Pell has to be treated as guilty. He has already been removed from all public ministry, and he must now be dismissed from the post he still holds at the Vatican as the head of its finance office and proceedings to dismiss him from the clerical state should commence. Of course it is a tragic outcome, likely to crush a sickly old man. But justice has to be seen to be done, and the Catholic Church’s reputation in this area so far, not least in showing more concern for abusers than for their victims, is a miserable one. Zero tolerance – a phrase worryingly omitted from the summit’s final documents – has to be shown to convicted abusers, without exception and irrespective of rank.

    This was the fundamental reason why the Vatican summit of presidents of bishops’ conferences from all over the world, plus their equivalents in religious orders, had become so urgently needed. The most telling feature was the testimony of clerical abuse survivors from five continents, which arose from an understanding by Pope Francis and others that the issue of abuse has to be approached by the heart as well as by the head. Bishops had to share the suffering, not just by recognising how grave was the Church’s failure in not preventing it but also by putting themselves in the shoes of those who suffered. The victims’ experience of abuse was devastating, deeply damaging psychologically, spiritually, and, in many cases, permanently. No one could have left the summit still privately thinking it was a marginal concern.

    But they would have been deeply misled if they had been consoled by Pope Francis’s observation, in his final address, that the Catholic Church’s problem with paedophilia was simply part of a wider spectrum of the abuse of children in all sections of society. That was not helpful. Of course abuse occurs elsewhere, and is deplorable; but there is something about a Catholic priest abusing children that puts it in a unique category of awfulness. The power gradient between them, so to speak, is extreme; the victim’s ability to do anything about it is small; the abuser’s scope for escaping detection is unlimited; faith is crushed, trust destroyed; the deepest damage is done to mind, body and soul; and the sexual life of that person will carry the wound for ever. That includes the ability to love. A clerical child abuser is not much better than a murderer. And a bishop who gives him any sort of cover or protection is an accessory to that crime.

    This is where the summit stumbled. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago was commissioned to outline suitable mechanisms within the Church structure for dealing with bishops who either abused children themselves or were accessories to abuse. But his approach is fundamentally flawed. It proposes that senior bishops like metropolitan archbishops should investigate diocesan bishops in their province. They would of course reach outside the hierarchical structure for advice and assistance, even to secular agencies. It was good that Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has acknowledged, in an interview with The Tablet, that the Church has much to learn from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which is currently scrutinising child protection procedures in the Church in England and Wales. But one lesson from IICSA is clear already: no matter how good its safeguarding procedures, the Catholic hierarchy cannot police itself.

    This is a serious structural and indeed theological problem. Bishops are accountable upwards, but not downwards. Under the Cupich proposals, they answer to a metropolitan archbishop, and to the Holy See. But public – including lay Catholic – confidence in bishops to manage their responsibility to vulnerable children diligently is at rock bottom. And the Cupich proposals will do nothing to lift it from there.

    The Church has to look itself in the mirror, and realise that what is missing from the image reflected back is any serious role for the laity in church governance. The hierarchy is not the People of God. This crisis has shown us that the Church as it stands is an incomplete Church. Bishops cannot report downwards even if they want to, and cannot be held to account by those of God’s People to whom they have been allocated to lead and teach. The old phrase “pray, pay and obey” still hovers over lay people as a summary of their duties. Bishops are like little medieval sovereigns in their own domain, exercising something akin to a Divine Right. This is obviously not their fault. But nor is it good.

    The independent lay role is not absent. Indeed the child abuse crisis has brought it to the fore. But it is largely exercised in the secular sphere, by royal commissions, police detectives, investigative journalists, social workers, and indeed juries in criminal trials. Despite child safeguarding structures, opportunities for the independent audit of bishops and archbishops by lay Catholics still barely exist, because the structure has no room for them. Hence the Church is not a self-righting vessel with the in-built checks and balances necessary to restore its peace and equilibrium amidst the present storm. It is, in short, top heavy. And that is almost the very definition of clericalism.

  23. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, again Richter’s unfortunate “vanilla” remark is not his “new strategy in his defence of Pell.” As has been pointed out hundreds of times since the remark was made, a defence lawyer pleading for a moderate sentence is forbidden to call the verdict into question. The time for defence is past — until an appeal is permitted. Instead the verdict must be accepted and the plea for a light sentence must proceed on this basis. It has also been pointed out that Richter’s line of reasoning is common in sex-offence cases. It cannot be construed as admitting his client’s guilt, which of course would undercut the appeal proceeding.

    The appeal is lodged on the basis that the conviction is unsafe and that the accused is innocent of the charges. This is still Richter’s position.

    I am surprised that you have read Fr Brennan’s article only now. It is the most famous critique of the verdict (along with Weigel’s) and was published on Feb 26, the day after the verdict was announced. Brennan is a human rights lawyer and sat in on the trial. In recounting the logistical impossibilities of the sacristy rape allegations it is based on his being at the trial (at least some of the time).

    I do not like the Tablet editorial:

    “It would be a mistake for the Church to take much comfort from the prospect of an appeal against Pell’s conviction to a higher court. A jury of twelve honest citizens has carefully sifted the evidence in his case and found the prosecution case credible beyond reasonable doubt. It would be disrespectful to them and to the Australian criminal justice system to conclude that they must have been swayed into a perverse verdict by anti-Catholic prejudice or by hostile public opinion.”

    In short, an “appalling vista”….

    “It is not infallible, but the jury system, with its safeguards, is the best method so far invented for sifting truth from falsehood.”

    Its failures are sufficiently numerous, notably in Australia, not to make this at all reassuring.

    “As a working hypothesis at least, therefore, Cardinal Pell has to be treated as guilty. He has already been removed from all public ministry, and he must now be dismissed from the post he still holds at the Vatican as the head of its finance office and proceedings to dismiss him from the clerical state should commence. Of course it is a tragic outcome, likely to crush a sickly old man. But justice has to be seen to be done, and the Catholic Church’s reputation in this area so far, not least in showing more concern for abusers than for their victims, is a miserable one. Zero tolerance – a phrase worryingly omitted from the summit’s final documents – has to be shown to convicted abusers, without exception and irrespective of rank.”

    There were no doubt many lofty editorials saying the same thing about the other cases of wrongful conviction I mentioned above. Pell may not be guilty, but we must proceed as if he is–as a working hypothesis. Is this really a satisfactory stand to take? It sounds more like a strategy to preserve the Church’s reputation (ironically!) than a serious consideration of the question of justice.

    On the video I posted as a Rorschach test, I urge that the interviews with ex-chorister La Greca and the woman lawyer interviewed at the end be listened to critically. La Greca is very eloquent and dramatic and could bowl over a courtroom, but note how he evaded the question “did Pell abuse the boys in the sacristy” seguing into generic remarks.

  24. Frances Burke says:

    Perhaps this is the model the Church will use going forward in dealing with sexual abuse reports. It has been in operation for a number of years in Malta.

    “In a local sense, the Archbishop said that, as of 2015, the Church in Malta had implemented a new safeguarding commission headed by Andrew Azzopardi which receives every reported case of sexual abuse. The safeguarding commission, made up of lay people and experts in various fields, then takes care of the investigation and reviews the case and then Church leaders follows its advice and, where necessary, also involves the police, he said.”

  25. Joe O'Leary says:

    La Greca gave evidence in the trial — one can well imagine it carrying weight but it does not seem to me to be convincing at all. He speaks in stereotypes of generic pedophile-hatred and makes no attempt whatever to assess the evidence.

    He claims movingly, at the end of the video, that the complainant took his case on behalf of his fellow-chorister who died in 2014. The complainant, as Louise Milligan recounted, visited his deceased friend’s parents and told them that abuse by Pell was the origin of all his personal tragedies. The pattern all three discerned carried huge conviction. But in fact it is supposition.

    That the complaint was lodged only after the death of the friend (with no evidence that the complainant had ever mentioned it to anyone before) is a circumstance to be noted.

    I noticed that the complainant’s lawyer, Vivian Waller at 40.45, says that he suffered loneliness and depression and failed relationships because he had put such trust in Pell and was betrayed. Yet he has been presented as a model of psychic stability in contrast to the other boy who is supposed to have become a drug addict because of Pell. Also this relationship of “trust” seems to be postulated merely on the basis of Pell’s ecclesiastical status. The pattern the lawyer discerns is again supposititious and stereotypical. It all sounds like court theatrics to dress up the case. I’d like to meet the person who can say he or she never experienced loneliness or depression or failed relationships.

    On the plane of logistical implausibilities, we are asked to believe that the two boys meekly underwent the abuse, obeying the archbishop’s lewd instructions. That would suggest that the archbishop had picked out two remarkably pliable victims. Yet we are told that he did not know them personally at all (and had of course not “groomed” them).

    Of course I was not present at the trial and cannot offer my doubts with great authority. But Fr Brennan was present and is more scathing than I am. No one apart from judge, lawyers, and jury has seen the complainant’s testimony, so it is very difficult to imagine how it came across in the first trial and in the cross-examination.

  26. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I am always a bit late with my reading. I have just, tonight, read Paddy Agnew’s excellent piece in last Sunday’s Sunday Independent. He maintains that conservative elements in the Vatican also conspired to destroy Pell. There was I thinking that Pell was as conservative as they come.

    Right below Paddy’ article, I have yet to read Colm O’Gorman’s piece, “The Vatican has told lie after lie on abuse: now we need the plain truth.”
    I don’t think, Joe, anyone could quibble with that and I am sure you would agree that Colm O’Gorman is someone who certainly has a right to hold an opinion on these matters.
    I suppose, while I found Frank Brennan’s article very interesting, I realise the trial only concerned the alleged abuse by Pell of the two choir boys –one of whom is now dead –in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996 or 1997. Tellingly, in the first paragraph of his article, Fr. Brennan states “No other charges are to proceed” And that is the crux of the matter for me. We now know there have been other allegations of abuse made against Pell none of which ever got as far as a trial.
    Are we to believe that all those young lads, now adult men, are telling lies? I don’t think so, Joe.
    It has been a thoroughly depressing week for all of us still with some degree of hope that our Church might yet turn the corner and regain some of it’s lost credibility. Everybody, Catholic and non-Catholic alike wants to talk about Pell. Even the most devout, traditional type of catholic seem to despair and will ask you if the church can ever recover. I have had a few of those questions in the last week.
    Joe, you have on occasions on this site suggested that all this stuff happened in the dim and distant past and we must simply move on now.
    If only that were true.

  27. Joe O'Leary says:

    Developments in Pell affair:

    Paddy, the other allegations against Pell were not a bit like the alleged sacristy incident. Many of them were flimsy in the extreme — for instance, an attempt to find indecent exposure in his nudity in a changing room where all were nude (this phobia about nudity is laughable from a Japanese perspective).

    But supposing that Pell has a pedophile tendency (perhaps not fully conscious), that is a hanging-matter with the mob, but not in itself criminal. There is a gap of decades between the memory of alleged abuse and the actual events (between 2012 and 1996 in the cathedral case, the complainant having said nothing to anyone about it in that long interval).

    Pell’s refusal to give evidence live and undergo cross-examination is understandable if he wants to preserve his dignity and avoid the sort of trial of tendency that looms (with questions like “are you gay?” “have you ever found a teenager sexually attractive?” or whatever).

    In addition to the sheer insane hatred of pedophiles or anyone giving indications of attraction to kids, what makes Pell offensive to many Australians is that: 1. he is a “pom” with a refined accent; a bit like being a “West Brit” in our own country; 2. he is an academic and social high-flyer — the famous “tall poppy syndrome” comes into play — cut down the guy who’s too big for his boots: 3. he is a churchman — taking on responsibilities that are bound to draw opprobrium — both in Rome and in Australia; actually you could call him a softer (sic) version of John Paul II; and in the Australian imagination the only acceptable kind of religion is woolly and emotive stuff — someone who acts the part of a churchman to the hilt will be called cold, despotic, and so on.

  28. Joe O'Leary says:

    I mention the “gap of decades” because as soon as someone is labeled a pedophile, correctly or not, some people are bound to revisit past incidents that may have been perfectly innocent but are now read through this demonizing lens.

    (In Placid Murray’s “Newman the Oratorian” there is an interesting incident where Newman had to address his confreres to tell them that certain innocent expressions of affection are not seen in that light by “the world” and that the Fathers are therefore henceforward forbidden to take the boys to their rooms.)

  29. Frances Burke says:

    The recent death of former priest Eugene Greene has been announced. My thoughts are with the many many victims who suffered the most heinous crimes at his hands.
    In the article we read of the parishioners who raised €50,000 for him as they didn’t believe of his guilt. Denial is often the first response to such devastating revelations.
    ‘In the psychological sense, denial is a defense mechanism in which a person, faced with a painful fact, rejects the reality of that fact. They will insist that the fact is not true despite what may be overwhelming and irrefutable evidence.’

    This behaviour continues to this day.

  30. Joe O'Leary says:

    I was just about to post the link that Frances posted. But I don’t think it’s only a matter of denial, any more than those who doubted the guilt of the B’ham Six were in denial. Indeed many of the doubters loathed the IRA just as many of the current doubters loathed Pell.

    As to the complainant, we should note:

    *he is motivated by anger over the death of his friend, who was a drug addict, and who died in 2012 (the friend had twice denied to his mother that his mid-adolescence crisis was due to any sexual abuse and he is not known ever to have claimed to be abused by anyone)

    *the complainant himself never mentioned the alleged abuse until 2012–a sixteen-years silence. If he had, the person to whom he confided could have provided collaboration.

    *his live testimony did not sway the first jury, who apparently voted 10 to 2 for not guilty after very long deliberations; the second jury, as far as I understand, saw only a video of this earlier proceeding.

    *none of us have seen the complainant’s testimony — was it gruelling for him? He appears to have been cool and collected, and as a man of 35 (no longer a boy), whose anonymity has been perfectly preserved, he did not necessarily experience any trauma in giving his evidence.

    *the psychology of memory comes into play even for a 35 year old’s memory of his experience as a 13 year old. People can have false memories, or distorted ones, or misinterpreted ones (we can all find examples in our own experience).

    *public hysteria easily leads people to scan their past and register a sinister pattern that can be more supposition than objectively based. In the past many women were burnt as witches on the basis of such suppositions (huge massacres in a number of Catholic dioceses in Germany in the 16th-17th centuries; Salem in the New World, etc,). Today no one believes in witches but everyone thinks of pedophiles as the most sinister of beings, which can trigger exactly the same mechanism.

    These all seem to me to be quite weighty considerations that would explain how such an implausible story was told and believed.

    Meanwhile the second jury deliberated for only three days, a shorter span than the first jury. Were they “swayed” more by the powerful emotional rhetoric of witnesses like Andrew La Greca rather than by the taped evidence of the complainant?

    The “no smoke without fire” is not as powerful as people want to think. Heavy solicitation of complaints from the VIctoria police produced nothing, and “The Age” newspaper today, in a bid to shore up their flimsy collection of ancient allegations and rumors, has opened a box for its readers to send in their own allegations.

    Supposing the “fire” was that Pell had pedophile tendencies? In the current climate that is a hanging matter even if his hands had never strayed. Is justice served by that?

  31. Paddy Ferry says:

    Thanks, Frances for the links. I have read Martin Ridge’s book, Breaking the Silence. This is about my local community.

  32. Paddy Ferry says:

    “It is a crisis from which the Catholic Church may never fully recover.”

    This is the final statement from Prof. Patrick Parkinson’s excellent article which Frances shared with us in her 2nd link @47.

  33. Joe O'Leary says:

    Actually that Sky News fellow has a spotty reputation, and there are some slight errors in what he says (he does not mention the slits in the alb or the apparent fact that the sacristy did have red wine).

  34. Paddy Ferry says:

    Another reflection on the Pell Affair, this time from Australia and from Thomas Keneally in last weekend’s Tablet.

    Thomas Keneally

    The former Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney and head of the Vatican’s finances is now awaiting sentence, confined in a solitary cell to protect him from other prisoners. One of Australia’s leading writers points out that his fall has a significance far beyond the boundaries of the Church

    This week there is a ceremony in Manly, a beautiful peninsula lying between Sydney Harbour and the Pacific, to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the opening of a seminary to produce Australian diocesan priests. The neo-Gothic mass of the seminary gives a fascinating character to the beach and town below: “Manly – seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care,” as the advertising slogan of my childhood ran.
    Cardinal George Pell lived here, in apartments in the old seminary grounds, even though the main seminary building is now the International College of Management, Sydney, home to undergraduates and graduate students from Asia and as far away as Scandinavia. I live nearby, and in less troubled times I would see the Cardinal going on constitutionals, un-prelate-like in shorts and sandals.
    The Catholic Church had room to be visibly triumphant in Australia, as in Ireland, and rather unlike the UK, where the established Church so overshadowed it. It all started in 1836 when the Dublin-born Protestant governor of New South Wales, Richard Bourke, appalled by the lethal intensity of religious sectarianism, abolished the status of the Anglican Church as the state church of New South Wales and put all denominations on an equal footing. It became a national truism that in every Australian town where there was a hill, the Catholics, children of former convicts, immigrant children, built their church, their school, there. Piety and real estate were a holy duality.
    In trying to maintain the Church’s wealth and reputation in the face of claims from survivors, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne between 1996 and 2001, Pell devised a scheme known as the “Melbourne Response” to deal with the issue. The recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse reported that the Melbourne Response was “widely criticised as being legalistic and offering inadequate support to victims”.
    It initially capped compensation at A$50,000 (around £26,000 – the sum was later raised to A$75,000). The Church has made these ex gratia payments without recognising any liability, and has required confidentiality and the foregoing of further recourse by those the Church and its counsel were convinced were victims.
    Later, as Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, Pell and his counsel devised an Alice-in-Wonderland defence against a highly educated and valiant victim named John Ellis, who would not consent to secrecy and chose court action. The so-called “Ellis defence” was that under New South Wales legislation, the Church was not “a legal personality”. Therefore, it could not be sued for what one of its employees did. Ellis lost his case, but, on the advice of the Royal Commission, the Ellis defence has now been legislated out of existence.
    In June last year, when Pell was charged with multiple historical sexual assault offences, I wrote in The Tablet about Pell’s strangely detached manner when giving evidence to the Commission, but argued that this should not be taken as a sign of his guilt. On 11 December, he was found guilty on five charges related to the sexual abuse of two choir boys in the sacristy at Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s; the verdict had been suppressed until last week because the Cardinal was to face a second trial this month concerning alleged abuse in the 1970s, when he was a priest serving in a parish in the old gold mining town of Ballarat. After prosecutors dropped that trial, the suppression order was lifted. We now learned that Pell’s first trial had begun in August and had lasted for five weeks. After a week of deliberations, the jurors could not reach an unanimous verdict or even a majority verdict of 11 to one. At the retrial, a second jury was unanimous in finding him guilty. The message of the one complainant (the second former chorister had died of a heroin overdose in 2014 ) was eloquent: “Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact on my life. At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.”
    Pell, once the Vatican’s head of the Secretariat for the Economy and often referred to as third in the Church’s hierarchy, is now awaiting sentence in a remand centre, confined in a solitary cell to protect him from other prisoners. His sentence is expected to be imposed on 13 March. It is hard for all of us to get our heads around it.
    Will he be liberated on appeal? For one thing, he was not stinted for the best of defences. And cases of historic child abuse are notoriously hard to prove, particularly on the word of one witness. And yet Pell was found guilty by the jury. Pell’s lawyer says he will challenge the verdict on the grounds it was unreasonable and contrary to the evidence the jury heard. Indeed, Pell’s friends are depending on an appeal to set him free and clear his reputation. Some are treating the verdict as if it were a temporary mistake, soon to be rectified; that he is a scapegoat, taking the rap for the sins of the Church.
    This trial has been of significant importance for Australians. Pell is a notable neo-conservative figure, not just theologically but politically. In the Church, he has stood against gay rights and stem cell research, and against the ordination of women and the access of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments. As a social commentator he has questioned climate change as energetically as his close friend, former prime minister Tony Abbott. He has raised only muted opposition to the federal government’s heinous asylum seeker policy. He has been rewarded by letters of support addressed to the court from another former prime minister, John Howard, from the lower middle class Anglo tradition, as well as from Abbott, a former seminarian. “In his chosen profession,” Howard wrote, “[Pell] has frequently displayed courage and held to his values and beliefs, irrespective of the prevailing wisdom of the time … It is my view he has dedicated his life to his nation and his church.” He is a not inestimable loss, therefore, to the forces of the right, inside and outside the Catholic Church, at a time they find themselves uniquely out of fashion with the Australian electorate.
    George Pell is not the Church, as many reasonable people point out, and as many Catholics remind themselves as they absorb the shock of the verdict. But what has happened raises questions that the Church here in Australia and in Rome cannot evade. One is that Pope Francis knew of Pell’s conviction during the February summit on child abuse in Rome. Another is that, at the summit, the Pope called on the bishops to take “concrete measures” to address the issue of abuse. Are the bishops equipped to take them? If the Australian bishops as a group are anything to judge by, one would have to say: “No.”
    Thomas Keneally is the Booker-prize winning author of Schindler’s Ark. His new novel, The Book of Science & Antiquities, will be published by Sceptre in May.

  35. Joe O'Leary says:

    Manly is the Maynooth of the Southern Hemisphere — I visited the place and it doesn’t hold a candle to its archetype.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t share Thomas Keneally’s appreciation of the complainant’s statement.

    “Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact on my life. At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.”

    The same words are used by his female lawyer and they sounded very fake to me from her lips. I wonder if they were ghost-written?

    1. “Like many survivors” the complainant (is supposed to have) said twice — which to me sounds more like a meme or talking point than personal testimony.

    2. “Shame, loneliness, depression, and struggle” are experienced by every human being. They constitute the mildest level of “impact statement” rhetoric — the best the prosecution lawyers could come up with.

    3. “It has taken me years to understand the impact on my life” — or to construct such an understanding, as his felloww-chorister’s drug addiction was also constructed as part of a “pattern” betokening the impact of abuse? Apart from post hoc not being propter hoc, it’s not impossible that the construction of patterns in the wake of the friend’s death when the complainant first told of being abused (16 years after the alleged incident) also includes construction of the alleged incident itself.

    4. The generic utterance at the end is to my ears very unconvincing: “At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.” I suspect that these are the words of the lawyer rather than the complainant. Why would he philosophize generically “we trusted” “we fear” rather than “I” did? The trust alleged seems purely a postulate based on Pell’s ecclesiastical status; he was a new archbishop at the time, and it seems that they did not know him, nor he them. Again this broken trust meme is a legal construct probably supplied by the prosecution.

    Here is another defender of Pell:

  36. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, you take my breath away !!
    Here is another piece from last week’s Tablet for you to completely dismiss.

    Church in disarray after Pell verdict.
    Christopher Lamb.

    The Church is grappling to come to terms with Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys, with a febrile atmosphere in Australia seeing heavy criticism of the Archbishop of Sydney and a university vice-chancellor for their responses to the verdict.
    The former Vatican financial tsar, who was charged by police in 2017 with multiple sex abuse allegations spanning decades, is currently spending 23-hours-a-day in solitary confinement in a Melbourne prison as he waits for a 13 March hearing where he will be handed down a sentence for his crimes.

    Pell, 77, never took the stand during his trial but has strenuously maintained his innocence telling police the claims against him were “deranged nonsense” and is appealing the verdict.
    Nevertheless, the man who was once the public face of Australian Catholicism and a dominant figure in the Church scene globally is expected to be sent to prison for somewhere between ten and 14 years and is already facing a civil claim for sexual abuse from another complainant.

    In an attempt to mitigate his sentence, the cardinal’s barrister, Robert Richter, described the crimes as “plain vanilla sex acts” that had lasted “less than six minutes.” The trial Judge Peter Kidd disagreed describing it as “callous, brazen offending” that contained an element of brutality.
    Following the lifting of a media suppression forbidding reporting on the case, the cardinal’s 11 December conviction was made public on 26 February. A unanimous jury finding him guilty of five counts of indecent assault of a child under-16 and one of penetration of a child under-16 in the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne. This was a retrial of the alleged after the first trial ended with a hung jury.

    Days after the verdict, the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, faced criticism for warning those attending Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral about being “too quick to judge” Cardinal Pell arguing they should allow “truth and justice to unfold in God’s good time.” The cardinal, he added, was offering his time in prison “for all innocents who suffer.”
    Striking a less defensive tone, the Bishop of Paramatta, Vincent Long, himself an abuse survivor, spoke of the “shame and anger at the betrayal that the clerical sex abuse crimes represent, and the hypocrisy they reveal.” He stressed: “we are not the Church of one particular leader, be it Pope Francis or Cardinal Pell or any other bishop.”
    Meanwhile, staff at the Australian Catholic University have written to their chancellor calling on him to “sanction” Gregory Craven, the university’s vice chancellor, for an article in the Australian newspaper headlined “George Pell: a case where justice never had a chance” where Mr Craven argued the media and police had blackened the name of Pell.

    The letter, written on behalf of staff union members, called for the portrait of the cardinal to be removed from the Sydney campus and the Pell Centre at the Ballarat campus be re-named.
    Cardinal Pell’s trials over the sacristy offences took place under a media blackout to prevent prejudicing a second abuse trial which did not proceed due to a lack of admissible evidence.
    Some in Catholic circles had raised questions about his guilt by reporting that the hung jury in the cardinal’s first trial had come to a 10-2 decision to acquit the prelate.
    This claim has been strenuously disputed both by a legal expert and journalists in the court room.
    University of Melbourne law professor Jeremy Gans said there was “very little reason to think it is true,” pointing out that it was illegal for jurors to reveal details about their deliberations.

    During the first trial, the judge was told the jurors had reached an impasse and told them they could reach an 11-1 verdict. It was equally probable, therefore, that the jury was 10-2 in favour of a guilty verdict as it was to acquit, while two reporters in the Melbourne courtroom saw some jurors in tears indicating the deep divisions among the twelve.
    “I don’t think this claim [10-2 not guilty] can be trusted,” stressed Professor Gans.
    While one of the choirboy victims of Pell has died and said he was not abused, the other victim gave evidence via a video link and was cross-examined by the cardinal’s barrister, Mr Richter with no reporters present.
    The victim’s evidence of when the abuse took place corresponded with when the cardinal, then Archbishop of Melbourne, was recorded as saying Mass in December 1996 and February 1997. Along with the incident in the sacristy Pell was found guilty of a separate groping charge against the victim who is still alive.
    Days after the verdict it emerged that Cardinal Pell is to being sued for another abuse allegation dating back to the 1970s.
    A 50-year-old man has lodged a civil lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Victoria, alleging that he was assaulted by then Fr George Pell in a swimming pool in Ballarat as a boy.
    Allegations that the cardinal groped the boys in the pool was due to be examined in the terminated second trial. The man, who has asked not to be named, is suing Pell personally along with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the State of Victoria and the trustees of the Catholic boys home where he lived.

    In June 2017, Victoria police charged the cardinal with multiple allegations of sexual offences with a number relating to molestation at a swimming pool in Ballarat.
    A committal hearing in March also heard he had been accused of abusing a complainant while watching the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ at a cinema, and abusing another complainant during a water-skiing outing at a lake. None of those allegations proceeded to trial.
    In 2002, a man called Phil Scott alleged that a 20-year-old Pell groped him as a 12-year-old at a summer camp in 1961. The Church commissioned a retired judge Alec Southwell to investigate the claim and who found it “not proven” but neither was it dismissed. Separately, the cardinal was accused by a man called Les Tyak for exposing himself to young boys at the Torquay Life Saving Club, on the coast of Victoria, in the summer of 1986-87 and where Pell went on holiday.
    Rather than the burden of proof required by a criminal trial, Church child protection norms assess whether an allegation is credible before considering whether to remove a priest from ministry. The cardinal has been removed from ministry and barred from any contact with minors.
    Some experts say Pell’s appeal against his conviction could be successful but regardless of that outcome he will continue to face a Church investigation trial that could result in his removal from the priesthood coupled with fighting the civil claim

  37. Joe O'Leary says:

    Not sure what point Paddy is making by posting that miscellany of well-know facts.

    The sentencing today was entirely predicated, as the judge himself said, on taking the jury’s verdict as correct; he also pointed out the the cardinal has a right of appeal.

    The sentencing brought no new information to light and left the story just as implausible as before. We are still asked to believe that two choristers left their post-Mass choral gathering to run and drink wine in a deserted sacristy and that a fully-robed archbishop then appeared there, sexually abused them for a few minutes and then rejoined his group while they rejoined theirs. There is still something extremely odd about the entire uncorroborated story.

    The judge stated that the cardinal’s alleged offending is a completely isolated incident in his life and he gave no explanation of why he would have indulged in such bizarre actions. There is really no objective basis for believing the conviction to be just, and a fortiori there is not basis for professing certainty that it was just.

    A journalist asked Richter when he left the sentencing hearing, “Is is a witch hunt?” and he replied, “You be the judge.” I would judge that it is in fact a witch hunt. I don’t see how that judgment can be confirmed or refuted short of a new statement from complainant or cardinal.

    The injustice of the trial is clear already from the fact that the criterion of “beyond reasonable doubt” was not applied.

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