Pope Refuses to Condemn Pedophile Cardinal Pell, Even After Losing Sex-Abuse Appeal
ROME—On Monday, the shutters of Australian Cardinal George Pell’slavish apartment in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica were open and cleaners could be seen dusting the window sills. Pell had clearly hoped that he would be free to return to this upper-floor flat and to the life he once enjoyed. But on Wednesday, three Melbourne judges decided that Pell will be staying in an Australian jail after being convicted of child sexual abuse.
“By a majority of two to one, the court of appeal has dismissed Cardinal Pell’s appeal against his conviction,” Chief Justice Anne Ferguson announced.
Pell was said to have been sitting with his head bowed as the decision was announced, while cheers from outside the building could be heard as Ferguson explained the decision.
Ferguson dismissed an argument made by Pell’s defense that there was room for reasonable doubt by the jury.
“It is not enough that the jury might have had a doubt, but they must have had a doubt,” she said. “This was a compelling witness, clearly not a liar, not a fantasist and was a witness of truth.”
Last February, Pell, 78, was convicted on charges he sexually abused two choir boys in a Melbourne cathedral in the late 1990s. He was sentenced to six years in Melbourne Assessment Prison last February, and has spent the last 175 days in solitary confinement.
Prior to his sentencing, his lawyer, Robert Richter, who has since been dismissed, pleaded for a lenient sentence, calling Pell’s abuses, a “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating.” That clearly did not help his client, who denied he had committed the act.
The Vatican did not oppose Pell’s efforts to reverse the verdict.
The day before the verdict, a Vatican spokesperson pointed The Daily Beast back to its original statement on the matter. “Cardinal Pell has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself to the last degree,” it said in a statement. “Waiting for final judgment, we join the Australian bishops in praying for all the victims of abuse.”
Now that Pell’s appeal has been denied, Pope Francis is in a tight corner. Vatican policy has for years centered on placing blame for the sex-abuse scandal on local dioceses and on the bishops in charge of perverted priests. But in the case of Cardinal Pell, the highest-ranking church official to be convicted, only the pope can decide what to do now. Will he defrock the cardinal who was once in his inner circle? Will he finally take him off the Vatican website, where he is still listed as head of the Holy See Secretar...