On the downfall of George Pell

I should begin by saying that I am not a Catholic, and not even a Christian in any practising sense. I have said this before, but it is a necessary opening to this essay. I add to it the fact that I have never spoken to Cardinal Pell nor heard him speak save on television, though I have read a good deal of what he has written. With these caveats in mind I would argue that the sentence on Pell was wrong in terms of natural justice, for the details of the alleged crime were simply improbable in the extreme. They relied on the statements of one of the two boys whom, it was claimed, had given oral sex to Pell in the Sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The other boy, wait for it,  died five years ago, had never claimed to be molested, had made no statements to police, and indeed had never been interviewed. What is said to have happened to him is hearsay.

I’ll add one more prefatory remark. I am used to microphone-wielding reporters pursuing alleged paedophiles, serial rapists and other miscreants, asking them whether they are sorry for their deeds, usually with one or two bystanders looking on. But I have never seen before the visceral hatred expressed by onlookers as Cardinal Pell arrived for his trial. It was simply horrifying. Where did this loathing come from? And that is part of the essay, too.

There have been a number of articles in the newspapers expressing worry about the trial and the sentence. I’ve seen summaries of a couple, and have read one article. Mine is similar, and I ask no pardon. I had my thoughts before I read anyone else’s, and the fact that several people of different persuasions have thought to write in this way tells you something. Cardinal Pell was not on trial for covering up sexual abuse within the Church, or any related matter, but for quite specific allegations about sexual acts he committed, allegedly under duress on his part, on two choirboys at the Cathedral after Mass. But I think he was seen as the personification of his Church, at least in our country, and that affected the nature of the trial.

I am not aware of the details of the robing of a bishop, as he was then, but it seems clear that it would have been difficult in the extreme for someone with those robes to have divested himself of them quickly enough to have two sexual acts in what in no sense is a private place, the Sacristy. The priest who robed him, Monsignor Portelli, told the court that he had been with Bishop Pell throughout the time he was wearing the robes, and then disrobed him. (The jury did not believe him, and there are those who would react, ‘Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he!’) Further, it was, on the given evidence, a chance encounter. Pell did not know the boys, and had not groomed them. I shake my head at all this. This is not the style of the paedophile, forgive the rhyme. The jury, twelve Australians of known character, agreed unanimously that the alleged sexual abuse had taken place. An earlier jury, dismissed because it could not come to the minimum 11-1 verdict, seems to have broken 10-2 in favour of the acquittal of George Pell.

The judge followed the jury’s decision, which was that Pell was guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Pell has lodged an appeal, and that is where we presently sit. Usually, such appeals rest on a technicality of some kind, since appeal judges do not consider the evidence. What that will mean in this case I have no idea.

Now to some other matters. I am reliably informed that there have been whispers about Pell and sexuality for a long time, and while I do not dismiss the remark, because my informant is gay, sensible and most intelligent, I would counter that George Pell’s undoubted intellect goes with a powerful conservatism about what ought to be the correct position with matters of faith and morals within the Roman Catholic Church, and a rather cold and often unattractive demeanour. He can easily appear as someone who completely believes he is right. That has not helped him in terms of public opinion, especially over the past decade or so, when the sexual abuse suffered by boys and girls within the Church system has been explored at length both by a Royal Commission and the media. He has, at least in my view, become associated in the public mind with ‘cover-up’ processes within the Church.

It would be difficult for jurors, no matter how disinterested they might be, not to be aware of all this. Yet they heard the evidence, and none of us did so, nor were we in a position to do so. Given Cardinal Pell’s statements on homosexuality, child abuse, and his own leadership in setting up better systems within the Church, it is simply astonishing that he would have committed such a crime in his own domain. In the twenty-three years that have elapsed since the incident, if it occurred, was he not acutely troubled by the sheer impossibility of the act and the position he holds within the Church?  Until very recently, he was third in the hierarchy in the Vatican, the central locus of power with the Roman Catholic Church, and the confidant of three Popes. I do not claim equivalent intellect with George Pell, but if I had been in his position I am sure I would have suffered at some stage a massive nervous breakdown, if nothing more.

Let us agree, for the sake of argument, that he possesses a steely capacity to separate his private life and his public life. The jurors must have come to some such agreement when they were discussing what decision to come to. There are, of course, many examples of people who have led double lives for years without discovery and apparently without remorse. But I shake my head in puzzlement. It just doesn’t have the right feel to it. It doesn’t pass the pub test, at least in my imagined pub.

What about the claimed victim? He was subject to a lot of cross-examination by Pell’s counsel. We haven’t any access to it, and the jury only saw a tape recording. But the claimant’s responses seemed to satisfy the jury. If he made up the whole story, then what caused him to do so? Just as there are people who lead double lives, there are people who make things up, and then come to believe them, embroidering their story to make it more plausible. A couple of months ago more than 40 actresses said that Harvey Weinstein raped, groped or in other ways sexually harassed them. Many said that their careers had suffered because of retaliation on his part. There have been other claimants who are not actresses. The numbers run into scores. I find it hard to believe that all of these claims are factual. Weinstein has denied all claims, saying everything was consensual. I find that hard to believe, too. In today’s social-media climate it is awfully easy for someone who wants a bit of publicity to say ‘He did it to me too’. They have their fifteen seconds of fame. Was that the case with the sexual abuse victim?

So there you are. I simply have no idea what actually happened, if anything ever did. But I have a worrying feeling that George Pell did not get a fair trial. Could he ever have received one? I think not. The personification of justice, the goddess Lustitia, appears with scales and a blindfold. The scales mean that she is weighing up the evidence, the blindfold indicates that she is not able to see who the accuser and the defendant are. I’m not sure she was present at the George Pell trial.





Join the discussion 69 Comments

  • Chris Warren says:

    These offences/practices are not unique to Catholics but presumably, occur at a similar rate within other religions. I cannot see why Pell would be any different to all the other offenders as there seems to be a fair bit of corroborating evidence such as there being a reason he was banned earlier from a swimming pool change room. This suggests a propensity.

    Unless someone can prove a (relevant) reporting bias, there seems to be less occurrences reported among atheists.

    • I may have misunderstood you, Chris, when you suggest the same sexual predilections probably occur among all religions. As a percentage among the general population, quite likely, but across all religions? Probably not. Gays are in every walk of life, and the more power to them. But gays shouldn’t be conflated with pedophilia or, more to the point, with the Catholic clergy’s vow of celibacy, which is often very difficult.

      • Chris Warren says:

        Catholics are often protected by the Right and you can find such suggestions from Quadrant. One poster said:

        “In fact, Catholic clergy have lower rates of abuse than clergy of other religions or denominations (some groups, for example the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have far higher reported rates of abuse than any mainstream denomination). ”

        Of course they produce no evidence and then go on to claim:

        “…abuse in any church, school or community group is far outstripped by abuse in the home, where it has been estimated 90% of abuse occurs. ” again with no evidence.

        They also have a go at Boy Scouts in America but change the terms of their attack for their own convenience.

        I doubt whether it would be possible to get a suitable sample set to make any comment w.r.t. gays.

        • Boambee John says:

          “Catholics are often protected by the Right and you can find such suggestions from Quadrant. One poster said:”

          Strangely, up until comparatively recently, Catholics largely supported the ALP.

          • Chris Warren says:

            Boambee John

            Catholics split the ALP setting up an arch-reactionary outfit taking the name Democratic in vain. Most of those that remained in the ALP called themselves the Right and were funded by Catholics (eg Archbishop Mannix) to set up Right wing unions in various industries they were able.

            More recently other Catholics ran so-called “Catholic Action” activities on Australian Campuses to disrupt student politics. Greg Sheridan brags about this in his paperback when he teamed up with Tony Abbott an infamous Pell-mate.

            Quadrant is a rightwing sheet so it is entirely consistent for Quadrant to come to Pell’s aid.

            Normal people should just wait for the appeal to go through, not prejudge anything. If this does not satisfy you – then there are plenty of prayer groups you could join to pray for Pell.


      • Bryan Roberts says:

        “across all religions? Probably not.”

        The prevalence of grooming gangs in the UK suggests you may be mistaken.

    • Aert Driessen says:

      Chris, this has nothing to do with ‘propensity’. Pell was accused of a specific act (oral sex), in a particular situation (straight after Mass), in a particular place (the Sacristy). These places, at such times, are like thoroughfares. Then there is a comment that was attributed to a Catholic priest (Frank Brennan?) who said for anyone to present a penis through all the robes worn by a celebrant saying Mass would be impossible. As far as I know, none of these garments have frontal openings and cannot be parted to one side. They are all put on over the head.

      • dlb says:

        Surely your average defence barrister would have used Brennan’s argument?

      • Chris Warren says:

        I am aware of media reports (not hearsay) of Pell’s much earlier behaviour in change rooms.

        This establishes propensity.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Ah, propensity! So that’s how you arrive at your climate consensual conclusions.

          The bigger the consensus, the more the propensity, hey?

          We should’ve guessed.

        • Aert Driessen says:

          Yes Chris, I agree, but my point was about how unlikely it would have been for these acts to have taken place in the circumstances (timing, location, opportunity (robes)) .

          • Chris Warren says:

            Aert Driessen

            OK, however I am not too concerned with this issue.

            There was massive controversy over Lindy Chamberlain (when I was working in law enforcement policy in DSMOS) so I am aware of many of the issues about evidence and overreach.

            Pell has every right to appeal and does not need partisan cheer squads from Quadrant types. At worse, so far Pell has lost the presumption of innocence. The presumption now is that he is guilty – but this could change on appeal.

        • Boambee John says:

          They would be the accusations that were not considered strong enough to take to trial, would they?

          Seems the DPP thought them to be less than hearsay, regardless of the media reporting them?

          • Chris Warren says:

            Boambee John

            Who considered them???

            Where, when, did DPP consider them????

            I think you are trying to inject a lot of fake news here – what is your purpose?

          • Boambee John says:


            The complaints were made and investigated by the police. They did not get to court. Seems simple. Either the police did not think they should go to court or the DPP did not think they should go to court.

            Seems to me you are trying to maintain a narrative here, to what purpose?

        • John says:

          Media reports are not evidence in the legal sense. The concerted media leaks plus activist protests and all the coverage they generated are, however, evidence, in the general sense that you are using, of a conspiracy to railroad Pell.

  • John says:

    From what I’ve read, the so-called evidence was too weak and claimed things that were physical and logical impossibilities.

    I suspect that Pell is being punished not for what he might have done but because of the Catholic Church’s handling of suspect priests until just recently. I doubt very much that any juror would have been unaffected by the media’s constant reporting of the subject over the past 10 years, nor by the findings of the Royal Commission that unfortunately wrapped up shortly before the case. Had that RC only started after this case was out of the way would the jury have found differently?

    It all boils down to whether the jury was objective and focused on only the matter at hand. I question whether it was. I also wonder how much jury discussions were dominated by just a few strident voices, but perhaps that can be said about many juries.

    I believe that jury pay has been increased in recent years. In the past it was not uncommon for professional people to provide acceptable reasons for dodging jury duty, leaving it to the retired or unemployed. I wonder if despite an increase in jury pay the same situation has continued. I also wonder if some people on juries really understand the issues and nuances of matters that they are asked to decide.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Thanks, Don, for a very logical opinion, kicking against what we are supposed to swallow.

    Here is a very good summary of the Pell verdict from Peter Wales:

    “It is hard to know where to start with this, so I will make just a few key points, which you can follow up or check if you wish. During the Royal Commission into institutional child abuse, the ABC breathlessly reported that 60% of child abuse in a religious institution took place within the Catholic Church. Shocking! How disgusting! What a hive of degenerates! Except that by not telling the whole story, the ABC was saying something completely untrue.”

    “The Royal Commission observed there had been 2504 incidents of alleged child sexual abuse in the Uniting Church between its inauguration in 1977 and 2017. This compares with 4445 claims of abuse in the Catholic Church between 1950 and 2015. Some parts of the media pounced on this figure as again proving the disproportionate amount of abuse that occurred within the Catholic Church. But two other factors need to be considered: the Commission did not consider any abuse claims made against the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches during the 27 year period from 1950 to 1977. Most abuse claims in the Catholic Church occurred in the 1970s. This may also have been the case in other denominations. But whether so or not, this is 27 years in which abuse in the Catholic Church was considered and counted, but not in other denominations. In addition, media reports generally failed to note that the Catholic Church has five times as many members as the Uniting Church. On the Commission’s own figures, a child attending the Uniting Church was more than twice as likely to have been molested than a child attending the Catholic Church.”

    “Another important fact that become clear in the cases reported to the Royal Commission is that almost all reported abuse in the Catholic Church occurred in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties. Was it disgusting? Absolutely. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Should perpetrators be brought to justice? Absolutely. Is it still happening? No. Or hardly.”

    The real chance of Pell being guilty is very remote:


  • spangled drongo says:

    Because you can’t google, read, observe and/or do simple mental arithmetic, blith, please don’t assume that nobody else can.

    You should practice a little if you wish to cope with reality.

  • Neville says:

    I thought that proof in a trial should be “beyond reasonable doubt ? Apparently not in the Pell case.

  • dlb says:

    “It would be difficult for jurors, no matter how disinterested they might be, not to be aware of all this.”
    Don, you over estimate the intelligence or interest of Australians, especially in this social media and net streaming age where people choose what news if any they are exposed to. Of those who still watch free to air television 1.7 million viewers in the major capitals tuned into “Married at First Sight”.

    “I do not claim equivalent intellect with George Pell, but if I had been in his position I am sure I would have suffered at some stage a massive nervous breakdown, if nothing more.”
    I think most of us ordinary mortals would. Those in power usually get there because they are not worried by stress, or thrive on it. Pub tests are usually made up of ordinary folk. Lindy Chamberlain was harshly judged by the general public because she showed little emotion.

  • Grey Nomad says:

    I’m reminded of Lindy Chamberlain. Visiting Ayers Rock, as it was, before The Chamberlains did we were warned about the dingoes. Unafraid of humans yet still wild animals they foraged opportunistically through the campgrounds. After Lindy was initially acquitted she still wasn’t innocent in the eyes of the public, and any jury ignorant of her unless they were living down a burrow. How could dingoes do such a thing? As with Pell her seeming indifference didn’t help her cause. Eventually she was aquitted but dingoes were never guilty and we can’t cull them unless we call them “wild dogs”.
    In Pells case, powerful interests who want the church out of the public square were out to get him and operating from the very highest levels. Eventually the truth will come out. A conservative thinker, unafraid to speak his mind he had to be stopped from attaining high office. We couldn’t have a climate sceptic as Pope, could we?

  • peter edgar says:

    Succinct and convincing. If there is one thing worse than child abuse it is the jailing of an innocent man. How can the jury have overlooked the utter implausibility of the offence? It reminds me of the witch trials during the Maoist cultural revolution and, indeed, the current ‘corruption’ trials.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    The claims about oral sex in the sacristy are clearly nonsense. It would have been easier for a nun to persuade an altar boy to burrow under her habit. In the case of the Cardinal, this may theoretically seem possible, but it seems to me more the stuff of a Monty Python skit.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Can’t you imagine the script? “No, not under that one, you idiot, under the other one. Then unzip the trousers. Of course I’m wearing underpants. What do you mean you can’t find it?”

      Absolutely made for ridicule.

  • JimboR says:

    “I would argue that the sentence on Pell was wrong ”

    I don’t think he has been sentenced yet, that happens on Wednesday.

    “two boys whom, it was claimed, had given oral sex to Pell”

    Given? That sounds almost as jolly as “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating”. That was Pell’s argument as to why he deserved a lenient sentence. The judge was not impressed… responding “He did have in his mind some sense of impunity. How else did he think he would get away with this? There was an element of force here … this is not anywhere near the lower end of offending.”

    There was no “giving” here Don.. this was oral rape of a 13 year old boy.

    “It would be difficult for jurors, no matter how disinterested they might be, not to be aware of all this. ”

    Probably true, but even so… if you were on the jury do you think you could have put all that aside and judged the matter on the evidence in front of you? You could, but the twelve men and women chosen somehow couldn’t?

    “But I have never seen before the visceral hatred expressed by onlookers as Cardinal Pell arrived for his trial.”

    He was arriving for his sentencing hearing, having been found guilty moths earlier. Nobody knew about the trial back in December. Australians have a long history of being tough on convicted pedophiles. Perhaps news of this angry mob never made it south of the border? https://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-07-08/angry-crowd-vows-to-force-ferguson-out/2498292

    • Don Aitkin says:

      As to your last point, I have seen lots of TV images of pedophiles arriving for their trial, and I repeat that I have never seen anything like the visceral hatred shown to Pell. Since he had been found guilty there would have to be a sentence. No comment on the rest of your post.

    • JimboR says:

      My point was the angry mob scene you saw wasn’t Pell arriving for his trial as you claim. There were no protesters when he arrived for his trial in December, because nobody knew about it. He was already known to be guilty when the angry mob ambushed him as he arrived for his pre-sentence hearing. I’m not saying that justifies the mob’s behaviour, but it’s very common. Here’s another example: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-28/paedophile-vivian-deboo-mobbed-by-victims-and-protesters/10561568

      As it turned out, that angry mob might have done Pell a favour.. that abuse he copped was taken into consideration in the sentencing calculation as a form of punishment already received.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Some here personify the mindless multitude that feel that Pell has to be guilty and must suffer for the wrongs of the church, regardless of the facts.

    Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, when venting his concern a little while back over whether Pell would get a fair trial, put the moral issue up in lights — the wrong done to victims of sexual abuse cannot justify a wrong being done in a witch hunt against Pell.

    It started with the Victorian Police and many, including our ABC, don’t get that.

    The culture of our civil society has been found wanting.

    • Aert Driessen says:

      I agree s-d. Last night I watched my recording of the 4-Corners program on this. When the story got around to the part where the boys were in the sacristy drinking the alter wine, they strengthened the narrative by showing two chalices, implying that they had sipped from them. When the chalices are brought back by the celebrant after any Mass, they have been rinsed and dried, at the alter. No chalice in a sacristy has consecrates wine in it. Unconsecrated wine is kept in bottles and it is not always obvious in which particular cupboard.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Paul Kelly reports on the justice of retribution:

    “Pell was not on trial for the evils of the church; he was not on trial for the betrayal of young children by priests; he was not on trial for any defects in his own ­response to child sexual abuse. He could not be on trial for any of these things. He was on trial only for the specific charges he faced and the accusation he was a sexual predator. The question for justice is obvious: Did Pell get a fair trial? The implausibility of the evidence raises serious doubts.”

  • Stu says:

    The Drongo wrote “Thanks, Don, for a very logical opinion, kicking against what we are supposed to swallow.” So please tell me that was an unintended pun. If it was intended it leaves a bad taste (pun intended).

  • JimboR says:

    “The other boy, wait for it, died five years ago, had never claimed to be molested, had made no statements to police, and indeed had never been interviewed. What is said to have happened to him is hearsay.”

    Don I think you need to brush up on the definition of hearsay. It would be hearsay had the deceased victim told the surviving victim what had happened to him in the sacristy. But instead, the surviving victim _witnessed_ what happened to the deceased victim and reported it to the police. If a witness to a murder is called to give evidence in a trial and points to the accused and says “he did it, I saw it with my own eyes” do you consider that hearsay? The dictionary certainly doesn’t.

    As for your point about him never making a statement to the police, I think you need to go and chat to some victims of child sexual abuse and you’ll find out why so many of these crimes went unreported.

    • spangled drongo says:

      “But instead, the surviving victim _witnessed_ what happened to the deceased victim and reported it to the police.”

      You are not telling it like it really is, jimb.

      The surviving victim’s claim that he witnessed what happened to the deceased victim is seriously devalued by the need of the surviving victim to support his own story and is not corroborated by any other evidence.

      If he were an independent witness, your argument would hold but this is very low value evidence and is really no better than, as Don says, hearsay.

      “As for your point about him never making a statement to the police, I think you need to go and chat to some victims of child sexual abuse and you’ll find out why so many of these crimes went unreported.”

      That may well be right but this case is already overflowing with that sort of prejudice.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Gerard Henderson today on the Pell verdict and the hypocrisy of the ABC et ors:

    On ABC TV’s Q&A last Monday, presenter Tony Jones spoke about those who expressed doubt about the conviction: “We haven’t seen this sort of heated discussion about a jury verdict in a very long time … it’s disrespectful.”

    In fact, it’s not uncommon that individuals express concern about jury decisions — convictions and acquittals alike. Jones may think that Lindy Chamberlain’s conviction for the murder of her baby daughter in 1980 is a long time ago. But ABC TV recently ran a three-part documentary challenging the jury verdict that Keli Lane had murdered her daughter in Sydney circa 1996.

    Many Australians are aware that, eventually, Chamberlain’s conviction was found to be unsafe by the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

    Fewer know about Colin Campbell Ross. He was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1922, having been found guilty by a jury in Victoria of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. Ross and his supporters always maintained his innocence. He was pardoned posthumously in 2008. This sad story is documented in Kevin Morgan’s 2012 book Gun Alley.

    In December 2011, Peter McClellan, who was later to chair the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, delivered a speech to the University of NSW’s law faculty. He was reported to have said that some trials were too complex for juries and they made poor ­decisions.

    When he was on the NSW Court of Appeal, McClellan was involved in overturning convictions in the criminal jurisdiction.

    Yet some of Australia’s leading journalists, like Jones and the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas, have implied in recent weeks that no one should disagree with a jury verdict.

    • dlb says:

      So what you are saying (apologies to Cathy Newman), is that juries aren’t up to it. Possibly true with half of the jurors having an IQ less than 100.

      But be careful what you wish for. I’m sure there are plenty of your “lefty bed-wetters” within the judiciary. I draw your attention to the recent coalmine decision in the Hunter Valley.

  • MD says:


    Having served on a jury, I remember on the first day realising that it’s the hard cases that come to trial, where the evidence is conflicting. As a juror, you are supposed to ‘be sure’ of guilt before you find someone guilty. Yet as a juror, you have not seen the events for yourself, so you have be ‘sure’ about the truthfulness and reliability of what other people have said, and of course ‘sure’ about the untruthfulness, perhaps, of conflicting witnesses. That’s not easy.

    I am inclined to think the Pell jury, like the one I was on, did their best to be fair. In our case, the accused, like Pell, did not testify. The judge told us that we must not hold that against him. In the jury room, we followed the judge’s instructions. That said, the silence of the accused deprived us of an alternative version of events to consider. Perhaps it is only human to find it frustrating to be allowed only one side of the story, and perhaps Pell’s silence weighed against him.

    Personally, I do find it very hard to believe Pell committed the crime, given the objective circumstances. I also agree that he came before the court as a man subject to a great deal of prejudice. So now there is a heavy burden on the appeal court judge(s) in deciding if the verdict is safe in law. And there will be many people unhappy with their judgment whatever it is.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment


  • Boambee John says:

    Chris at 2012 on March 9

    “Normal people should just wait for the appeal to go through, not prejudge anything.”

    Chris at 1034 on March 8

    ” I cannot see why Pell would be any different to all the other offenders”

    Chris at 1434 on March 8

    “I am aware of media reports (not hearsay) of Pell’s much earlier behaviour in change rooms.

    This establishes propensity.”

  • beththeserf says:

    Fine post, Don. Thank you.

    Hearsay, whispers is not evidence. Supposition, ‘could have,’ ‘might have,’ is not evidence. One voice versus another is not evidence without additional strong substantiation, one side or the other. ‘Innocent’ until ‘proven guilty’ is the basis for non-arbitrary rule of law for all. Justice requires that the person in the dock is not a pawn in a political game, a sacrificial lamb in a larger context, isn’t that why yr supposed to have the judiciary separate and independent of the ruling party and of political interference from either side?

  • JimboR says:

    Hearsay evidence is inadmissible. If this very experienced judge erred and let any through then Pell’s appeal team will have an easy job on their hands. I note that none of their grounds for appeal include such a claim, so perhaps you armchair critics should give them a call.

    You could almost argue the opposite. One of the grounds for appeal is that the judge dis-allowed the pacman video. The jury listened to all the testimony from the church officials about who was where and when after Sunday Mass. The defence decided to turn that into a helpful video with coloured dots moving around the cathedral. The judge dis-allowed that, pointing out that the video completely air-brushed away all the vagaries of the actual testimony. In effect, it was a form of hearsay evidence. It was one man’s interpretation of the witnesses’ testimony, testimony that the jury themselves had already heard.

    • spangled drongo says:

      You choose to overlook the fact that the cleric who accompanied Pell also gave an eyewitness account of what he saw but the judge ignored that completely.

      Why is one eye witness any more credible than the other?

      Other than it suits a certain populist narrative?

  • BB says:

    Be afraid very afraid! My difficulty is a jury should bring down a verdict that is beyond reasonable doubt. The evidence is the statement of one person when they were 13 decades ago. There is no corroboration which for me is astounding. The second boy should not have even been mentioned since there was no evidence other than what the first boy said. Memory is a very fragile thing and that is why there must be corroboration.

    I would like someone from the many comments here assure me and give evidence of such that I am wrong that is not what occurred. If we now can be convicted on the say-so of one person without any other evidence I find this very frightening and seems to me a collapse of our legal system.

    I also do not understand that public opinion seems to think such a crime is of paramount importance and the worst possible thing that could happen. I have a friend who as a child was taken to a death camp with her family in Prague. All other members of her family died but she survived. She got on with life which wasn’t destroyed by this incredibly evil event. But these days the crime Pell was convicted of is considered to be far more than that in the general scale of things. I would like again for someone to explain this because I truly do not understand.

    • BB says:

      Surely one of those who are so certain Pell is guilty can throw light on the issues I raise.

    • Aert Driessen says:

      BB, as I said in previous comments, I have very serious reservations about the guilty verdict on the particular charges against Pell. The evidence for these specific charges in that particular circumstance seem so improbable. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the jurors thought that they were justified in finding Pell guilty because they were aware of whispers of similar misdemeanours involving other boys, at other times, in other places, in other circumstances, and believed them. I don ‘t know if such a judgement can be justified by some people, but certainly not me. Might such a judgement be regarded as morally guilty even if not legally guilty? I don’t know.

      • Chris Warren says:

        Aert Driessen

        You need to provide evidence that:

        Jurors “were aware of whispers of similar misdemeanours involving other boys, at other times, in other places, in other circumstances,” and;

        “believed them.” (!!!)

        Is this how fake news is manufactured?

        • BB says:

          Is it true that the sole evidence against Pell was that of one person without corroboration? Is it also true Pell has been convicted for crimes against the second person now dead was because of the statements of the first again without corroboration?

          • Chris Warren says:


          • spangled drongo says:


          • Boambee John says:

            Chris at 1628 on 13 March,

            To borrow a question you earlier addressed to beththeserf, “How long did you sit in the court room observing the evidence?”

          • Chris Warren says:

            Boambee John

            Luckily, the court does all the sitting for me.

            You do not have to attend a court to agree with it – but you do need to, or have access to someone who did, if you want to dispute it.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Boambee John,

            When our blith agrees and believes, the less he knows about the facts, the better.

          • Boambee John says:


            See my separate response further down.

            Chris has confused his faith in the verdict with actual knowledge of the evidence. The question was a specific one about a detailed point of evidence. Chris answered if with a firm “No”, then admitted that he was not familiar with the details of the evidence. Hence his answer has no value.

            As is often the case, particularly on Goebbels Warming.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Who does this remind you of:

            “I hope very soon he [Pell] rots in that crypt and that the edifice of the church comes crashing down around his stinking corpse.” Marxist and anti bullying expert, Roz Ward.

  • BB says:

    It appears the police in Victoria in an operation known as “operation tethering” started with Pell as a target and then sought to find their evidence. When it got to court in finality they had no need for corroboration all they needed was one accuser who can anonymously have him convicted. This is a lynch mob of the first-order and process that could be applied to anyone. Be afraid be very afraid our legal system is collapsing that is far more important than anything else about this.

    To its discredit, the legal profession itself has taken just as strong a stand in support of this ideology. In a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Law Council of Australia called for consolidation of sexual harassment provisions across jurisdictions and an end to the “culture of silence” in the legal profession itself. Law Council president, Arthur Moses SC declared:

    Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is pervasive and damaging, and the legal profession is no exception. The legal profession cannot deny the self-evident truth that sexual harassment is a problem within its own ranks.

    Now, if a proposition is a self-evident truth, it does not need the support of any evidence or reasoning. It is simply true, a foundational premise, no proof required.

    Keith Windschuttle

  • Boambee John says:


    Regardless of your opinion on the verdict, you could only respond “No” to BB at 1552 on 13 March if you heard the actual evidence. You are confusing your support for the verdict with a specific question about the evidence.

  • Ross says:

    Tonight Pell once again sits in his cell, a convicted sexual abuser of children. Feel free to kick around your opinions, but unless his appeal is successful (and that’s not looking too good), that’s where he will stay. A pedophile.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    I heard some of the judge’s speech, and was not impressed by its tone. I would have thought a more impersonal style would have been better. How he thought the defendant displayed ‘[something] arrogance’ worries me, since as far as i know the defendant did not take the stand to give evidence. Maybe I’m wrong there.

    • JimboR says:

      What he actually said….

      Another possible reasonable explanation for your preparedness to take on the
      risk of somebody walking into the sacristy, is that you may also have
      subjectively believed that, had this occurred, you could control the situation.
      You may have thought you could control the situation by reason of your
      authority as Archbishop, whether or not that belief was well founded. Such a
      state of mind would have been extraordinarily arrogant, but the offending which
      the jury has found you have engaged in, was on any view, breathtakingly

      These are all reasonable inferences available once it is assumed, as I must,
      that this offending actually occurred. I do not aggravate your sentence on the
      basis that you held any of these states of mind as to why you were prepared to
      take on the risk of somebody walking in. I simply highlight them as reasonable
      possibilities to further rebuff your counsels’ submission that the only inference
      available is that you could not have been acting in a rational, thinking way

      • Zatara says:

        When did it become an acceptable role of a Judge to ‘highlight reasonable possibilities to further rebuff counsels’ submission’?

        If the Judge wants to argue a case he should step down instead of doing it from the bench.

        In a just system that alone would be grounds for appeal

      • JimboR says:

        ummm… every time he or she hands out a sentence. After the defendant has been found guilty, the judge holds a pre-sentencing hearing where counsel from both sides make submissions directly to the judge. Defense counsel gives reasons why the sentence should be lenient, for example: “This is no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating.” (another one the judge thankfully rejected). Prosecution make submissions as to why it should be harsh.

        The judge then disappears for a week or two to considers these submissions and then returns to bring down his sentence. That invariably includes which sentencing submissions he accepted and which he rejected. The sentence can also be appealed, so it’s important that all the parties (and the appellate court) know the judge’s sentencing considerations.

      • JimboR says:

        “When did it become an acceptable role of a Judge….”

        To specifically answer your question, some time around the end of the 18th century.

  • margaret says:

    ‘Everything in the world is about sex. Except sex itself. Sex is about power.’
    Oscar Wilde.

    I watched the delivery of sentencing by Judge Peter Kidd in entirety. It was excellent.

  • RIchard Mullins says:

    Is Chris Warren a paid troll? Or it simpler to assume that there are a percentage of the population who are wired to “get off” on making vile comments about people?


  • RIchard Mullins says:

    Milligan’s mythological story about Pell connects to a piece of American mythology. Billy The Kid. The Kid’s evidence against Pell was a rewrite of the evidence of Billy Doe (Daniel Gallagher) a 24 year old heroin addict who testified that he was sexually assaulted by a priest in Philadelphia when he was a 10 year old altar boy. BIlly and The Kid are two pieces of the one jigsaw puzzle. The priest pourer Billy more altar wine, showed him ponographic magazines, asked him if he liked the pictures of the men or women better, and said they would do more later. Next week he was sexually assaulted – his imaginary story appears to have been used to crib the equally imaginary evidence about Pell which fast-tracked the sexual assault to take place at the first and only meeting in the sacristy. Milligan needs to explain where her name The Kid came from. Was someone feeding her information? The court evidence is suppressed, and she says that The Kid refused her an interview, so where does her evidence come from? I think we can already sense that The Kid’s evidence is totally imaginary. Even sitting through the trials, there was suppressed evidence. Where did Gilligan get her story from about the details of the assault in the sacristy. Please write to me if you know. RIchard Mullins portal1943@gmail.com I have tried to contact Louise Adler (Milligan’s publisher) and tweeted to Milligan but have not had a reply.

  • RIchard Mullins says:

    Don, you said ” I am reliably informed that there have been whispers about Pell and sexuality for a long time, and while I do not dismiss the remark, because my informant is gay, sensible and most intelligent, I would counter that George Pell’s undoubted intellect goes with a powerful conservatism about what ought to be the correct position with matters of faith and morals within the Roman Catholic Church, and a rather cold and often unattractive demeanour”.

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. Your comment that “I am reliably informed that there have been whispers about Pell and sexuality for a long time” means what? If you are not willing to put any evidence up, why make slanderous claims?

    Kind regards
    Richard Mullins

  • Richard Mullins says:

    I appreciate Zatara’s comment above. I think the judge is demented.

    Here is another demented judge, Jean Bodin:
    “… one accused of being a witch ought never to be fully acquitted and set free unless the calumny of the accuser is clearer than the sun, inasmuch as the proof of such crimes is so obscure and so difficult that not one witch in a million would be accused or punished if the procedure were governed by the ordinary rules.”

    Bodin, Jean. De la démonomanie des sorciers [1587]. Abridged trans.: On the Demon-Mania of Witches.

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