Cardinal Pell analysis: What happens next?

The Vatican is holding off from issuing any disciplinary measures against Cardinal George Pell until the Australian prelate has exhausted all legal avenues in trying to overturn his convictions for the sexual abuse of children.

After a panel of judges rejected Pell’s attempt to overturn the December 2018 jury’s guilty verdict against him, the Holy See released a statement saying the cardinal has “always maintained his innocence” and that he is entitled to bring his case to the High Court of Australia.

The Vatican added, however, that it is committed to pursuing perpetrators of abuse through the “competent ecclesiastical authorities,” a reference to the Church investigation that has been opened against the 78-year-old former Holy See economy tsar.

That process, which could see Pell removed from the priesthood, will not get into a full swing until a decision on the final appeal bid is made.

It is still unclear whether the High Court will even hear the cardinal’s case.

“As in other cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case,” a Vatican spokesman said on Wednesday, adding that the pope had removed the cardinal from public ministry and contact with minors when Pell returned to Australia.

A senior Rome source said the church inquiry will rely on what the Australian court is willing to share with investigators, and an assessment has to be made on whether the case will proceed.

The cardinal can defend himself during the church process and, judging by his approach in the civil trial, he is likely to vigorously contest the case.

But it also opens a potentially nightmare scenario for the Holy See is if the church clears cardinal, while his criminal conviction stands.

The Pell case has become something of a litmus test for the church’s handling of abuse, given that so much hangs on the testimony of a single complainant.

Will a victim, who has undergone cross-examination and convinced a jury, be believed, or will the denials of a powerful cardinal be accepted?

For the Church to convince the world it is serious about tackling abuse, child protection experts stress that everyone making an allegation of abuse must be listened to, regardless of who they accuse.  Continue reading

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , , , ,