July 15th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORIES Liberal discontents take internal struggle to Shakespearean heights

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell charged: the process is the punishment

EUTHANASIA What Boudewijn Chabot can teach Victoria

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Taiwan's 'friends' make the Beijing cut

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE NT abortion law oppressive towards health professionals

HEALTH Gardasil(R) and the man upon the stair, Part I

AFRICAN AFFAIRS Special force deals with scourge of poaching

MUSIC Andrea Keller: transpositions of death and grief

CINEMA Cars 3: On ageing without rusting

BOOK REVIEW Biggest democracy makes big strides

BOOK REVIEW A refinement of the Industrial Revolution


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Cardinal Pell charged: the process is the punishment

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 15, 2017

The charging of Cardinal George Pell with “historical sexual assault offences”, as the police described them, is the culmination of a lengthy media campaign led by the Fairfax press and the ABC to bring down Cardinal Pell.

The police investigation of allegations against Cardinal Pell was the subject of a recent book, Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell, written by ABC journalist Louise Milligan, which traversed the matters which are now the subject of court action.

The book contained a number of uncorroborated allegations against Cardinal Pell which date back at least 20 years. None of these allegations were made against Cardinal Pell when he was a priest nor when he was a bishop or archbishop, despite the fact that he was a very well-known public figure.

Although some of these allegations had been published previously, and rebutted by Cardinal Pell, the book repeated the allegations but dismissed Cardinal Pell’s responses, while repeatedly referring to him in a derogatory way.

Cardinal Pell’s response to child sexual abuse was made clear after he was appointed Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, when he established the Melbourne Response, the Catholic Church’s first victim support scheme in Australia.


According to repeated media reports citing unnamed police sources, Victoria Police has been investigating allegations against Cardinal Pell for almost two years, many years after the alleged incidents occurred. Cardinal Pell has repeatedly criticised the trial by media surrounding the investigation.


We have been contacted by people wishing to assist Cardinal Pell’s defence. Donations may be sent to the following account:

Bank name: Bendigo Bank

Account name: Ferdinand Zito & Asssociates Law Practice Trust Account

BSB number: 633-000

Account number: 1359-51192

Reference code (transaction description): LFGP

If you wish an acknowledgement of receipt of funds: fzLFGP@fzlegal.com.au










Last year, three detectives from Victoria Police went to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell over the allegations.

According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, last August the Office of Public Prosecutions, to which Victoria Police had filed its brief of evidence, returned the brief without recommending prosecution (June 30, 2017).

However, the media campaign against the Cardinal went into overdrive. Cardinal Pell was summoned to appear before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and freely gave evidence.

The low point of the royal commission was the four days set aside to interrogate Cardinal Pell in Rome from February 29 to March 3, 2016.

In this hearing, Counsel Assisting the royal commission Gail Furness SC embarked on a brutal cross-examination of Cardinal Pell accusing him repeatedly of being complicit in or covering up the disgusting sexual abuse of children in Ballarat, where he served for many years as a priest, then as an auxiliary to Archbishop Frank Little in Melbourne from 1987.

Cardinal Pell was directly and repeatedly accused of lying to the commission, of covering up evidence of sexual abuse of children, and of blame-shifting to exonerate himself.

This is a clear breach of the commission’s duty of procedural fairness to witnesses who have voluntarily given evidence. Cardinal Pell’s repeated denials were mocked and ridiculed. He was subjected to vicious character assassination arising from these allegations in the Australian media, particularly social media.

It was only in the last half hour of these four days of evidence that Cardinal Pell’s legal representative in Sydney was able to tender evidence to the commission that demolished any suggestion that he personally knew of sexual abuse in Ballarat, or had stood by while the perpetrators – including priests and brothers – were able to molest children in Ballarat, and later in Melbourne.

Nevertheless, Furness later made a submission to the royal commission in which she again repeated the unfounded allegations against Cardinal Pell, in the process destroying her own credibility.

When news that Victoria Police would proceed with charges against Cardinal Pell was released, the Cardinal’s response was immediate. He strenuously denied all allegations and repeated that he had cooperated fully with Victoria Police investigations.

He said: “I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

He said that he had consulted with Pope Francis, and with the Pope’s approval, would stand aside as chief financial officer of the Vatican.

Cardinal Pell also said that he would return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors, who would also advise on his travel arrangements.

Cardinal Pell said: “These matters have been under investigation now for nearly two years. There have been leaks to the media, relentless character assassination and, for more than a month, claims that a decision on laying charges is ‘imminent’.

“I am looking forward finally to having my day in court.”

It is unclear how long the legal proceedings will take to be resolved, but the process itself is a punishment.

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