Week of Pell’s ‘resurrection’

Andrew L. Urban

Within the space of a couple of days this week, several voices were heard in the public square ‘resurrecting’ the late Cardinal Pell, dismissing the notion that he was guilty of sexual abuse, a notion that some maintained even after the High Court’s 7-0 decision to quash that conviction. 

On the first anniversary of Cardinal Pell’s death in Rome, this extraordinary case continues to make ripples in the law and society. In the law, it is prompting yet another call for the establishment of  a Criminal Cases Review Commission. In society it is challenging those whose animosity and antagonism against Pell remain firmly in place, defying the High Court’s decision, referring to the verdict a result of a jury not “acting rationally”. It also brings to the forefront the conviction in December 2023 of Pell’s Vatican adversary, Cardinal Becciu on charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

On Friday January 12 in Australia:

Former High Court justice ­Michael Kirby has described a new edition of Gerard Henderson’s book, Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile On & Collective Guilt, as “an important contribution to the efforts to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission” in Australia.

Mr Kirby said basic evidence in the case showed “a very serious doubt was raised as to cardinal Pell’s guilt”, adding: “Effective protections against miscarriages of justice must be there for all serious cases, even for a cardinal.”

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, marked the first anniversary of Pell’s death in Rome of a heart attack after hip surgery with the strongest church statements yet about the cardinal’s charges, conviction and imprisonment on sexual abuse charges and his later “unanimous High Court exoneration”.

At St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Wednesday, Archbishop Fisher said: “Following a media, political and police witch hunt, cardinal Pell was tried and im­prisoned for crimes he did not commit. Even after he was unanimously exonerated by the High Court he continued to be demonised by some.”

Archbishop Fisher told The Australian: “The Pell case was a serious miscarriage of justice. So far there has been no inquiry into the actions of the police or how the legal system managed to get this so wrong.

“Perhaps worst of all, there seems to be no mood in Victoria for a serious inquiry into the justice system.”

The Australian also reports that “A separate telephone tap has also revealed a conversation in which one person tells another “the highway is open to you” after Pell was charged.

“Vatican investigators have been told money was sent to Australia to adversely affect the case against the cardinal.”

On Wednesday January 10 in America:

Wrongfully convicted Fr Gordon J. MacRae writes from his prison cell in New Hampshire:

 The case against Cardinal George Pell was …. influenced by nefarious machinations, including police and prosecutor corruption.  This was at the heart of a curious incident related in Prison Journal  (Volume 1, p. 329).  At a pretrial hearing on Cardinal Pell’s false sexual abuse charges, among the most difficult charges to defend against, a Melbourne, Australia priest who was present in the court told Pell’s supporters that he prays that the prosecutor will “mess up his presentation.”  When that actually happened, the priest reportedly said, “See, my prayers are working!”  When Cardinal Pell was told of this he said, “I would have much preferred that he prayed for justice to be done.”

Those were the spontaneous words of an innocent man who believed that justice in this life is possible — even likely.  The guilty on the other hand engage in any number of contrived machinations to do an end run around the law.  When a defendant is innocent and there is no evidence supporting the charge, it is too often police and prosecutors who resort to machinations to do an end run around the law.

There is a vivid example of this on the same page of Pell’s Prison Journal  cited above.  Detective Sgt. Kevin Carson of the Ballarat, Australia Police Department produced a report claiming that sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Victoria — where Pell was facing trial — was responsible for forty-three suicides.  After the shocking story was leaked to tabloid media, a parliamentary inquiry into the Church’s handling of sexual abuse was launched.  An inquiry is similar to a grand jury report in the United States.

The police set up an investigation, but were able to identify only twenty-five of the forty-three named by Detective Carson.  Of those twenty-five names, only sixteen had committed suicide.  But only one of the sixteen had been assaulted by a member of the clergy.  As Pell himself pointed out, “One is one too many, but one is not  forty-three.”  This tendency to “heighten the hype” lends itself to unfair trials and wrongful convictions, but it also lends itself to career advancement, a shamefully strong force in many of the US grand jury reports on Catholic clergy.

In his analysis of the Cardinal Becciu trial in The Wall Street Journal  cited above, Francis X. Rocca included the following paragraph:

“Around that time, Francis made Australian Cardinal George Pell his finance chief and gave him sweeping powers.  Pell unveiled new financial guidelines for the Vatican.  But he clashed with the secretariat, which opposed his plans for a financial audit by an external auditing firm.  Pell considered Becciu his main opponent….  Other Vatican officials also lobbied the Pope against Pell’s changes.  The Pope curtailed Pell’s powers and the external audit was cancelled.  Pell later returned to Australia to face child sex abuse charges.  He was acquitted on appeal and died” [on January 10, 2023].

In an October 15, 2023 published commentary on Mr. Rocca’s account in The Wall Street Journal, I added some further context to the story:

“The part of this nebulous story that most troubles me is the decision of the Pope to listen to Cardinal Becciu and other Vatican officials who lobbied against Cardinal George Pell’s financial reforms even after [ the Pope] had empowered him to reform Vatican finances.  Mr. Rocca does not speculate on the source of charges against Cardinal Pell in Australia — charges for which he was exonerated in a unanimous decision of Australia’s High Court.  This was after he wrongly spent 400 days in prison.  There are many who believe that there may have been a connection between these false charges and Cardinal Pell’s attempted reforms of Vatican finances.  Pell himself suspected this.”

Becciu, Pell

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13 Responses to Week of Pell’s ‘resurrection’

  1. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Mary, I feel compelled to support your analysis, particularly your insistence that at the very least, a Criminal Cases Review Committee (CCRC) should be legislated.
    Someone somewhere knows off the many instances of “wrongful convictions”, and many which we have yet to become aware off.
    Surely a CCRC would be a channel for a lot of those people to pursue given that people such as Andrew Urbin is only but one rare breed who goes to lengths to keep those of us informed and who are committed to exploring the unending litany of injustices in our society.
    I also am aware of the committed work of truly brilliant legal and advocacy representatives who have also gone to many lengths to secure a ‘second chance’ to survivors of “wrongful convictions” but who are also in the category of far and few between.
    I believe we must never forego or dismiss the efforts of those who seek to identify any doubts that can be exposed of a conviction or non- conviction irrespective of time limits or historical nature.
    Are we still not chasing down those who committed horrendous crimes during the previous World War holocaust and those who escaped any process of conviction?

  2. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich says:

    And what about the strange circumstances of the death of Martin Bryant’s father in his dam at Forcett before the Pt Arthur Massacre ? And how Martin insinuated himself to live with and be supported by an old Miss, a Tattersall heiress (old enough to be his mother ?) and her aged mother ! He got her to make a Will leaving her fortune to him .It is alleged ” he used to grab the wheel while she was driving ,nearly causing accidents ” as recounted on TV by a man? The last time Martin did this, it caused the vehicle accident in which Miss H’s (her name escapes me ) neck was broken and Martin was the Beneficiary of her entire fortune! Is this normal behaviour ? Not in my book !

  3. Brian J. Hurlock says:

    Andrew, the irony of someone like Brian Johnston, who apparently believes Martin Bryant is innocent 🤪, saying someone who KNOWS Bryant is guilty must therefore be “as thick as 10 planks”, is both staggering and totally risible!
    It is no wonder then, that the same “genius” still spreads the derogatory claims about the proven innocent, late Cardinal George Pell. And that the same person implies the Pell Case should no longer be discussed!

    Far from being forgotten, the terrible and tragic miscarriage of justice (sic) imposed upon George Pell, must NEVER be forgotten, and must forever be at the forefront of historical references to the very worst such injustices in the history of Australian legal practices! Plus, as a prime example of the inhumanity of Police and Government corruption and collusion for illegal purposes!

  4. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich says:

    I do not think one can compare the 2 cases. Pell was found innocent of Paedophilia by the Australian High Court , whilst Becciu has been found guilty of embezzlement by the Vatican’s own Court which I assume would have preferred to hide this sort of financial scandal from public view .Also, it is not difficult to prove matters involving embezzlement as I should know from my former job with the ATO . There is the possibility that Becciu may have had some involvement in framing Cardinal Pell since they were ememies because Pell was over-seeing Vatican finances., but, who will ever know ?
    As for the Martin Bryant case– I cannot remember the contents of th interview with his mother, but, a neighbour of mine knew him and his family from when he was a small boy and he used to regularly come on her and her husband’s farm to ride horses, etc. She has been on TV several times , and, both she and her husband have told me about his cruel and strange behaviour as a child ,and, how he came to kill her that day, but, luckily, she was in Hobart, so, he went to the Historic Site on his killing spree. Other neighbours all tell the same story about Martin. I knew the deceased parents of 2 cousins who worked at The Historic Site and were murdered that day; plus the sons of the couple whom he shot at home; and the 18 year-old lad whose job was to clean the walls and floor of the cafe and to remove the scattered body parts. Another one ,whom I consider a bit of ‘weirdo’, boasts that he used to surf with him. There is a long list of who knew Martin Bryant in Port Arthur where the former Bryant holiday- home is visible from my place . They and I are convinced on the evidence that Tasmania Police got the right person.My belief is that he should have been shot dead off the burning roof of the couple whom he had just killed that day and set fire to their house. I know the still- traumatised sons of that couple. The people of Port Arthur are fed up with strangers ( who were not witnesses )bringing up the terrible memories of something that destroyed so many of the lives of their friends and family. I have never liked Prime Minister Howard ,but, there was NO conspiracy ! Let the dead rest in peace !

    • Someone – WHO? – he put it into the heads of Cardinal George Pell, and of world public opinion, that Cardinal Becciu would be his enemy and that he would even plot against him by paying off the prosecution witnesses in the trial in which he was the protagonist in Australia . It was a hoax, but Pell fell into the trap, rejoiced at Becciu’s dismissal and activated an unworthy, bullying and obtuse justice campaign against his brother. It was then understood that the money intercepted by the Australian justice system – several million euros – had never been intercepted (it was the result of a calculation error), while the insinuations of a conspiracy are malicious and unfounded: the money sent to Australia were not to support the prosecution against Pell, but, conversely, to finance his defense. Another payment then – as declared by Cardinal Pietro Parolin – was intended for the purchase of an internet domain, subject to the authorization of Pell himself. In the meantime it is clear that it was not just a slander, but the worst slander imaginable, because it presupposed a hateful operation of malice, of perfidy. Facts have shown that Card. Becciu was not only innocent, but was the designated victim of a brutal frame-up, this one being perverse.
      Pell was convicted at first instance, just like Becciu. It is to be hoped that Becciu’s innocence will be recognized on appeal, as happened with Pell. Both were victims of defamation and slander. Pell proved to be an enemy of Becciu, while it certainly cannot be argued that Becciu was an enemy of Pell; Indeed, Becciu demonstrated solidarity with Pell even at the time of the persecution. Pell himself, moreover, after fueling the defamation campaign against Becciu, probably regretted it, because he recognized that the trial was not recognizing the rights of the defence. Diabolical is anyone who, without a shred of evidence, links Pell’s judicial misfortune with Card. Becciu. Unfortunately, the Pope, deceived, condemned Becciu on September 24, 2020, even before the trial, and before Becciu even knew about the accusations against him. The Judges – subordinate to the Supreme Authority in the Vatican – could do nothing but confirm the conviction, even without a shred of evidence.
      For those who want to seriously inquire: https://andreapaganini.ch/CASO_BECCIU.html

      • Garry Stannus says:

        Yes, I have looked at the document in the link … have scanned it … can understand here and there, but for proper comprehension, I would really need a translation, per favore, signore.

        • Geraldine Allan says:

          BECCIU CASE

          On September 24, 2020, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu presented to Pope Francis his – forced – resignation ‘to the office of Prefect of the Congregation of Saints and from the rights related to the Cardinalcy’. For more than nine months the Holy See did not provide any explanation, but some newspapers activated a very violent and pounding campaign in which they put numerous faults on the cardinal. He proclaimed himself innocent, found the story surreal and hopes the misunderstanding will clear up. For more than another seven months the trial did not enter into the matter, as the Promoters of Justice did not obey the orders of the President of the Tribunal, i.e. to deliver the evidentiary material in full (‘we will not begin the examination of the issues of this trial until the Defence has full knowledge of the documents’). Nevertheless, President Pignatone decided to move to the debate phase, in which it emerged that the witness Perlasca, whose deposition in the preliminary investigation is full of omissions, was manipulated; but the Court protected the manipulator, cancelling Chaouqui’s interrogation scheduled for February 16, 2023 and keeping hidden 120 messages out of 126 between her and Ciferri (Perlasca’s friend). Why don’t the magistrates look for the truth? What are they hiding?

          This press review is intended to help you get a complete idea of the story, in the certainty that the truth will set us free. Everyone. The contributions, scrutinised with discernment, propose more or less agreeable readings (not necessarily all concordant); I hope instead to avoid dishonest or slanderous articles. Always in the conviction of the sacredness of the principle of the presumption of innocence, which Pope Francis defined ‘a human right’; until proven otherwise.

          In August 2022 the Pope invited the card. Becciu at the Consistory. He then told the magistrates that we must ‘avoid the risk of ‘confusing the finger with the moon’: the problem is not the processes, but the facts and behaviours that determine them’. But what if the moon is not there? What if Becciu was really innocent, a victim of a colossal plot? What to do? On March 13, 2023, I wrote to the Pope. What about you?

          On July 26, 2023, after two years of trial and 67 hearings, bruised with fierce fury, PdG Diddi demanded a sentence of more than 7 years in prison for the cardinal; but without providing a shred of evidence in support of his theorems! On November 22 and December 12, the lawyers Viglione and Marzo dismantled all the charges one by one. On December 16, the cardinal was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in prison. The lawyers will appeal on appeal. AP

  5. Don Wakeling says:

    Did the “inquiry” call the detective to account for these grave multiple errors/falsities? Was the source of that information teased and and identified? Is the report of the inquiry available to be read?

  6. Andrea says:

    How sad that a victim of bad justice encourages (even through his supporters) bad justice against another person. The difference between Pell and Becciu is that the first one was slandered by a civil court, the second one by an ecclesial court. Just as Pell was found innocent, Becciu will also be found innocent in a fair trial. Pell himself said that the trial against Becciu is a trial that does not respect the rights of the defence. When the truth comes to light you will stop writing falsehoods. In the meantime, a trial is underway and the defendants are innocent up to the third degree. This is in civilized countries; who knows if also in the Vatican? For those who want to seriously inquire: https://andreapaganini.ch/CASO_BECCIU_AUSTRALIA.html

  7. Brian Johnston says:

    Andrew, why not just drop the Pell case. It is controversial. Besides he is deceased.
    Pell hit publicity 15 – 20 years ago and there were suggestion then of his paedophilia.
    I suspect Pell is guilty and wonder if he was heart attacked.

    You have enough to do following up on Martin Bryant who is still alive.

    The worst interview I have ever seen is Charles Wooley interviewing Carleen Bryant.
    It was disgraceful. He was talking to Carleen about how disturbed (and stronger terms) Martin her son was. Wooley has to know Martin is innocent or Wooley is as thick as 10 planks.
    The shooter at the cafe was not Bryant. The shooters identity is on the internet.

    • Don Wakeling says:

      Your comments on Pell’s case just serve to identify all that is abhorrent in our criminal”Justice”system;
      “suggestion then of his paedophilia”
      “I suspect Pell is guilty”.
      One can only hope that you never become a juror.

    • Mary says:

      Pell is only controversial to people like you who have a point of view that is mostly based on “suggestion”, “wonder” and “suspicion”. And I am sorry, but this essentially means that the point of view is based on an emotional response because of other experiences or beliefs, and not on proven facts.

      Regardless of whether a person is alive or deceased, justice is still important not just to the friends and relatives of the wrongly convicted person, but in order to assess better methods of arriving at correct and just decisions in the future.

      It is only by fully analysing such cases, and obtaining publicity – something that goes with the territory of notoriety such as with Cardinal Pell or Martin Bryant or Kathleen Folbigg, that enough pressure might eventually build up so that the government might feel compelled to set up a Criminal Cases Review Commission to benefit all people who have been wrongly convicted.

      It is people like Andrew Urban, Michael Kirby and Gerard Henderson who keep the spotlight on obvious cases of wrongful conviction that help to achieve pressure on government that hopefully will ultimately result in a Criminal Cases Review Commission to improve the justice system in this country.

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