Allegations that led to Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for sexual abuse are “absolutely unbelievable” and “without proof,” Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said.
The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said the conviction is “absolutely against all reason and justice” and resembles an understanding of justice going back to the time of King Henry VIII.
“Like everyone else, I cannot see the culpability,” Cardinal Müller told the Register March 4.
A jury convicted Cardinal Pell in December of sexually assaulting two boys in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.
The verdict was made public last month after the lifting of a media suppression order.
The Australian cardinal, who has vigorously protested his innocence and is appealing against the verdict, is currently being held in solitary confinement until sentencing on March 13.
As former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from 2014 to 2019 and effectively the Vatican’s treasury minister, Cardinal Pell was the third most senior figure in the Vatican. He is the most senior Church figure to have ever been convicted for sexual abuse.
After a mistrial in September, the jury for the second trial was unanimous, despite the cardinal responding to the charges against him as a series of “deranged falsehoods,” and with the bulk of the evidence resting on just one plaintiff.
During a pre-sentence hearing, Judge Peter Kidd described the crime as “brazen, callous offending,” adding it was “shocking conduct against two boys,” and that Pell did it “in such brazen circumstances that he obviously felt some degree of impunity.”
But the cardinal’s supporters are incredulous that he could have committed such a crime, especially in such a public place. The abuse is said to have occurred on two occasions, in 1996 and 1997, not long after Pell had been appointed archbishop.
“Nobody witnessed it,” Cardinal Müller noted, and said that he could not believe it could happen with “all the other persons” probably present after Mass.
The German cardinal said the crime was “supposed to have taken place not in a private house, but in the public cathedral.”
“The allegations against him are absolutely unbelievable, it’s impossible. It’s without proof, against all evidence,” Cardinal Müller said.
“If there’s no proof, you cannot condemn a person to 50 years in a fortress,” he continued.
“It’s an understanding of justice that goes back to the time of Henry VIII,” and “shows a corruption of the juridical system in mainstream public opinion,” he said.