Cardinal Pell sent to maximum security prison before sentencing; Vatican to open investigation

Cardinal George Pell leaves Melbourne Magistrates Court.

From LifeSiteNews: 

The Vatican has reversed its earlier position and opened an investigation into allegations against Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, who was taken to jail after a plea hearing Wednesday.

The decision was made by Pope Francis given Pell’s high standing, reported the Jesuit America Magazine.

The 77-year-old Pell will be held at maximum security prison until his March 13 sentencing on five convictions of sexually abusing minors, reported the Guardian.

Pell “will be kept in protective custody and remain alone for up to 23 hours a day,” it reported.

Pell was found guilty by a jury in December of sexual abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in 1996. The formal convictions are one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

A number of commentators, Catholic and otherwise, have condemned Pell’s prosecution as an anti-Catholic witch hunt instigated by police and media.

Pell’s first trial on the charges ended September with a hung jury, with 10 of 12 jurors supporting his acquittal.

Judge Peter Kidd granted Pell bail during the trials so he could have knee replacement surgery, but said he would revoke it Wednesday.

Pell’s lawyers withdrew a bail application scheduled at the Court of Appeal, stating in a release that Pell “believes it is appropriate from him to await sentencing,” reported Australian newspaper The Age.

They have filed an appeal that will “be pursued following sentence,” the lawyers stated.

Pell is the most senior cleric to be convicted of sexual offenses, and as Vatican treasurer and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals (C9) was considered the third-most powerful man in the Vatican when he was charged with multiple counts of sexual offenses in July 2017.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti initially said the Holy See would wait until Pell’s appeal ended before taking action, according to CruxNow.

The pope “confirmed the precautionary measures which had been imposed by the local Ordinary” on Pell when he returned to Australia in 2017 to answer to the charges, Gisotti said Tuesday.

That is, Pell is “prohibited from exercising public ministry and from having any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors,” he said.

But Gisotti announced Wednesday that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) “will now handle the case following the procedure and within the time established by canonical norm,” reported Reuters.

He also confirmed Pell is no longer Vatican treasurer. Pell’s term expired Sunday and the pope has to yet name a successor, Reuters reported.

The CDF will decide based on its investigations whether to proceed to a canonical trial or administratively, that is, forgo a trial and ask the pope to defrock Pell, an eventuality from which there is no appeal, reported CNN.

The Vatican announced in mid-December that Pope Francis had removed Pell and two other cardinals from the C9 in October, reported CruxNow.

Pell was convicted on the testimony of one complainant who alleged Pell discovered him and another choirboy in the sacristy of Melbourne’s Cathedral drinking sacramental wine after they snuck away from the procession following High Mass on Sunday, and that Pell then orally raped him and sexually molested him and the other chorister — who died in 2014 of a heroin overdose and who denied ever being sexual assaulted.

Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, argued that the complainant’s story was “fantasy;” the sacristy would have been a “beehive of activity” after High Mass, Pell would not have been alone at any time, nor would he to have been able to manipulate his robes to expose himself as the complainant alleges.

Richter attempted Wednesday to persuade Kidd to give Pell a lenient sentence.

But his efforts were “disastrous” and have “thrown Pell’s supporters into despair,” according to the Catholic Herald.

Richter maintained he had to make arguments in the context of Pell’s guilty conviction, and so argued that the offense Pell was convicted of, but steadfastly denies committing, was “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating.”

That and Richter’s arguments brought gasps from spectators in the crowded courtroom, the Guardian reported.

“Whatever his reasons, his description of a horrific attack on a minor (which Richter was not conceding actually happened) will do nothing to persuade the Australian public of Pell’s innocence,” noted the Herald.

“The situation is therefore a nightmare for the Catholic Church.”

Richter’s arguments also did not appear to convince Kidd, who described Pell’s behavior as “callous, brazen offending” and “shocking conduct,” the Guardian reported.

Pell has steadfastly maintained his innocence, describing the charges as “falsehood and garbage.”

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5 Responses to Cardinal Pell sent to maximum security prison before sentencing; Vatican to open investigation

  1. Alan says:

    I hope that the conviction will be overturned on appeal. If the trial had taken place in the UK, the introduction of majority verdicts means he would have been acquitted on the 10-2 split.

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  2. johnhenrycn says:

    I didn’t know that, Alan (about majority verdicts in the UK) but look at it another way: If an accused receives 5 “not guilty” votes, he ends up being convicted by a mere majority of two. Not sure that’s something to be desired, and in a way, majority verdicts turn the notion of a crime “being proven beyond a reasonable doubt”, on its head. If 5 jurors vote “not guilty” surely that must satisfy the “reasonable doubt” criteria by which accused persons have been given back their freedom for over 200 years. I guess that venerable common law doctrine is getting short shrift in the UK these days.

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  3. kathleen says:

    The final incompetence of Cardinal Pell’s lawyer was astounding! No wonder there were loud gasps of surprise heard around the courtroom.

    And now what further information does the Vatican hope to find with its “investigation” that hadn’t already been provided by Card. Pell’s defence team during the trial? I’m suspicious. Will it make any difference to the injustice dealt out to ++Pell? They know he is innocent – anyone with only half a brain can see that – but not one bishop has openly spoken up in his defence! Perhaps the Vatican’s “investigation” will only serve to discredit him further, digging the knife in a little bit deeper. The powerful lavender mafia entrenched inside the Vatican must be rubbing their hands in glee to have got rid of this fearless fighter of homosexual vice and criminality (re the stolen 1 billion $), so they are hardly going to allow their victory to be undone now, are they?

    It’s another case of, “Goodbye, Good Man”!

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  4. johnhenrycn says:

    I won’t speculate about the Vatican “investigation”, but I think Pell’s lawyer made a good judgement call in his submissions to the trial judge on the issue of sentencing. No time to elaborate right now, except to say, I pray for Pell and I’m definitely in his corner.

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  5. Mary Anne says:

    I think you are right, Kathleen. God help us all! All this monstrous ugliness is happening because they defied Our Lady of Fatima, who could see all this coming, and tried to help us. Poor Cardinal Pell is, I think, in isolation also. He’s 76 and just had both knees replaced. What a sad sad situation. I’ll be praying for you Cardinal Pell. God bless you! I’m sorry for you.

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