George Pell loses appeal on sex abuse conviction, eyes new court challenge
George Pell loses appeal over child sexual abuse ruling
By JOHN FERGUSON, TESSA AKERMAN and REMY VARGA
7:10PM AUGUST 21, 2019
George Pell’s appeal against his child sex abuse conviction has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal and he will stay in jail. Pell was given six years in prison, with a non-parole period of three years and eight months, for abusing two boys in the 1990s. The ruling came via a 2-1 split decision.
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The Vatican has issued a statement in the wake of today’s decision.
Holy See Press director Matteo Bruni said the disgraced cardinal maintained his innocence and had the right to appeal to the High Court.
“As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it his right to appeal to the High Court,” he said in a statement.
Mr Bruni said he respected the Australian judicial system and that the Holy See was committed to pursing clergy members who abused children.
“At this time, together with the Church in Australia, the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse.”
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Pray for Pell, Catholics urged
Catholics have been urged to pray for the victims in the George Pell case — but also to pray for the disgraced Cardinal — in a letter sent to parishioners across South Australia by the Archdiocese of Adelaide after today’s court judgment.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly, the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, wrote to the state’s Catholics also promising that the church would redouble its efforts to ensure children were safe in its care.
While respectful of the Victorian Appeal Court’s decision, the letter also noted that it was not a unanimous one and that Cardinal Pell had the right to consider his options.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly.
“There is a possibility of further appeal,” the letter states. “I am very aware that this decision will give rise to a range of responses from people and that there will be intense and emotive media coverage of the outcome.
“In any of our discussions and commentary we need to carefully consider, and be sensitive to, the needs of all, in particular the survivors of abuse and their families.”
Bishop O’Kelly acknowledged the standing of the church had been damaged by the case and others like it.
“In these challenging times for the Catholic Church, we must show humility, empathy and a deep commitment to being a Church that goes out to the peripheries while also doing all that we can to provide the safest possible environments in our parishes, schools and agencies,” he wrote.
“We pray for all those affected by this case, remembering also Cardinal Pell as he faces the consequences of this decision.”
His statement came after a tumultuous period in the Catholic Church in South Australia, with Bishop O’Kelly taking over as Apostolic Administrator in June last year as former Archbishop Philip Wilson was continuing what would ultimately be a successful fight against charges of concealing child abuse within the church.
Having originally been found guilty of those charges, Wilson submitted his resignation to Pope Francis in July of last year, only to have the conviction overturned by the District Court of NSW last December with the NSW DPP indicating it would not be appealing that decision.
The trial of Philip Wilson devastated many South Australian Catholics who regard Wilson as a good man who came to be known as “the healing bishop” with his candid handling of the child abuse cases while Bishop of the Wollongong diocese between 1996 and 2001.
He has since retired and has made no public comment since he was exonerated last year.
He served four months’ home detention prior to winning his appeal, where the court found it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that a 15-year-old altar boy, Peter Creigh, had told Wilson in 1976 that he had been abused by a fellow priest, James Fletcher, in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in 1972.
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