I hadn’t been following the child abuse charges against Australian Cardinal Pell all that much because I assumed, based on the evidence, that they were somewhat plimsy and would never stick.
But they did — in a series of trials that are as odd as they come. At the heart of the proceedings there was a single witness and what appeared to be “recovered memories” of abuse.
The end result? A cardinal is now in jail and a bunch of journalists have been handed the Aussie equivalent of contempt-of-court charges.
This is a complex story that I’ll do my best to break down, starting with what CruxNow ran in December:
NEW YORK — In a decision that will undoubtedly create shockwaves around the globe, Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Church official to stand trial for sexual abuse, was found guilty on Tuesday by a Melbourne court.
In one of the most closely watched trials in modern Catholic Church history, after nearly four full days of deliberations, a jury rendered unanimous guilty verdicts on five charges related to the abuse of two choirboys in 1996.
The trial, which began on November 7, has been subject to a media blackout at the request of the prosecution, and follows a first trial in September ended after a jury failed to reach consensus.
Pell, who is 77 years old, is currently on a leave of absence from his post as the Vatican’s Secretary for the Economy.
In June 2017, Pell was charged by Australian police with “historical sexual assault offences,” forcing him to leave Rome and return home vowing to “clear his name.”
Technically, CruxNow wasn’t supposed to run that story because of this media blackout, aka a suppression order, that media around the world were supposed to follow. Of course, lots of news sources outside of Australia’s borders refused to go along.
The charges concern a claim that Pell sexually abused two male altar boys about 20 years ago when he was archbishop of Melbourne and that he did so on several occasions following Sunday Mass.
His lawyers have said that Pell was constantly surrounded by other clergy after Mass and there’s not a chance he could have gotten alone with some altar boys. Also, the sexual acts he’s accused of performing are impossible considering the voluminous, complex layers of liturgical vestments he would have been wearing — vestments that require the help of a second cleric to put on and remove.