The Pell Affair: Australia Is Now on Trial

The Pell Affair: Australia Is Now on Trial, by George Weigel.

Has it occurred to anyone else debating the perverse verdict rendered against Cardinal George Pell, which convicted him of “historic sexual abuse,” that the cardinal did not have to return to his native Australia to face trial?

As a member of the College of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church and a Vatican official, Pell holds a Vatican diplomatic passport and citizenship of Vatican City State. Were he guilty, he could have stayed put in the extraterritorial safety of the Vatican enclave, untouchable by the Australian authorities.

But because Cardinal Pell knows he is innocent, he was determined to go home to defend his honor — and, in a broader sense, to defend his decades of work rebuilding the Catholic Church in Australia, the living parts of which owe a great deal to his leadership and courage. …

The case against Pell is implausible and concocted by his political enemies:

The Victoria police went on a fishing expedition against Pell, a year before any complaint had been received from an alleged victim. The committal hearing, which dismissed many of the charges the police brought, ought to have dismissed all of them; but amidst a public atmosphere that bears comparison to Salem, Massachusetts, during the witchcraft hysteria of the seventeenth century, a criminal trial was decreed.

At that trial, and after Pell’s defense demonstrated that it was physically impossible for the crimes with which he was charged to have occurred, a jury voted 10-2 to acquit him; but that meant a hung jury (several of whose members wept as their verdict was read), and the Crown decided to proceed with a re-trial. At the re-trial, Pell’s defense team demonstrated that ten implausible and improbable things would have had to have happened simultaneously for him to be guilty of the charges; there was no corroboration of the complainant’s charges; there was ample refutation of the very possibility of the vile acts with which Pell was charged having occurred by others present that day; the police were shown to have been grossly negligent in investigating the alleged crime scene — and yet the second jury voted 12-0 for conviction, after what can reasonably be supposed to have been their refusal to take seriously the trial judge’s instructions on how evidence was to be construed. …

Something is very, very wrong here. …

… the gravest question must be raised about Australian public opinion’s capacity for reason and elementary fairness — and about the blood lust of an aggressively secular media, determined to settle political and ecclesiastical scores with one of the country’s most internationally prominent citizens, who dared to challenge “progressive” shibboleths on everything ranging from the interpretation of Vatican II to abortion, climate change, and the war against jihadism.