Pell: A case of fact and faith

5 September 2019

2.7 MINS

David Marr describes the faith of Pell’s supporters in him as ‘depthless; proof against any evidence that might be brought to bear against him.’ Co-panellists on The Drum seemed similarly mystified as to how Pell’s faithful supporters could remain so in the face of the evidence. According to Marr, Australia can claim a ‘more than modest victory for the law’, and his unsought advice to supporters is to now accept it’s time to drop any ‘florid conspiracy theories.’

That’s a little unlikely. In the assessment of ‘the facts’, Marr and his co-panellists have overlooked a very important consideration which the Cardinal’s supporters, and all people of faith, will not easily be able to discount.

One would expect that Cardinal George Pell at 78 has not lost his faith in God. This being the case, he will be expecting to meet Him face to face in a higher court on the other side of life, where harsher punishment awaits any cardinal sins. One would expect that a guilty man at his stage of life maintaining his innocence would in fact have no fear of God. If Christ says it would be better to have a large millstone put around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause a child to stumble, how much more trouble awaits a man that so tragically trainwrecks the life of children and then denies it. To accuse Pell of lying, would, it seems, be accusing him of having lost faith in God and any fear of Him. Can his supporters accept that he has become godless? Only by his own confession. A guilty God-fearing man would confess, repent, seek forgiveness and restitution in some way, and make ready to depart this world with a clearer conscience. That’s the only pathway. His continuing plea of innocence makes him either a godless liar or innocent.

It’s a dilemma. To accept the court determination that Cardinal George Pell is a paedophile is to reject the cardinal’s own confession, and subscribe to the idea that he’s a man without any fear of God, a liar who is prepared to face his Maker knowing he’s lying. If Marr and his doomsayers fully understood what they’re asking those close to Pell to accept, perhaps they may not be so mystified at the continuing support he receives in the face of what Gerard Bradley refers to as this ‘appellate setback.’

When it comes to the facts, Justice Mark Weinberg, as the dissenting judicial voice in squashing Pell’s appeal, has thrown a proverbial spanner in the works. His concern that the “prosecution relied entirely upon the testimony of the complainant to establish guilt, and nothing more’’ highlights a complete lack of supporting evidence on the part of the prosecution and as Justice Weinberg notes, ignores the evidence as a whole. In his judgment, there is a “significant possibility that the applicant in this case may not have committed these offences” which is why in good conscience, Weinberg had no choice other than to maintain his dissent. Like the first jury, this eminent lawyer, considered an expert in the criminal field and the most qualified criminal practitioner of the three on the Court of Appeal, believes the case for convicting Pell fails the reasonable doubt test. Hardly a ‘more than modest victory for the law.’

Archbishop Anthony Fisher said the ‘split decision among the judges is consistent with the differing views of the juries in the first and second trials, as well as the divided opinion among legal commentators and the general public. Reasonable people have taken different views when presented with the same evidence…” That is, reasonable people differ on whether there is reasonable doubt of Pell’s personal guilt with a general sentiment that he may be no more than the scapegoat ‘for the sins of the Fathers.’ The public remember the case of Lindy Chamberlain, who was wrongly convicted of murdering her baby daughter in 1982 in central Australia, and similarities are being drawn.

Critics like Marr may accuse Pell’s supporters of not accepting this judgment due to their depthless faith; however, Justice Weinberg’s detailed assessment casts the case for reasonable doubt, based in unsupported or contradictory fact. It will no doubt be the crux of the Pell case in Australia’s High Court.

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  1. Walter 5 September 2019 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    A fair assessment. The cardinal has everything to gain and nothing to lose by appealing to the High Court.
    And should he lose, as is possible, his Christian equanimity in the face of all that, will bear silent witness that it was not he in the dock after all, but Australia’s Lady Justice.
    This is Australia’s Dreyfus Case, and maligning the cardinal on the flimsiest of evidence undermines our deeply flawed justice system.

  2. Ross McPhee 5 September 2019 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Thankyou for writing this, Vickie.

  3. Mrs Dalrene Pompeus 5 September 2019 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    PETRIFIED WITH THIS JUSTICE SYSTEM Anyone is able to Accuse Anyone Remaining ANONYMOUS.

  4. Sean Holohan 9 September 2019 at 11:35 am - Reply

    In a rape cases the only witnesses are the victim and perpetrator

    • Vickie Janson 9 September 2019 at 11:50 am - Reply

      Very true however it’s not just unsupported evidence but contradictory evidence that people feel should be addressed

  5. Tom Jules 9 September 2019 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    In the first court case, 10 of the 12 jurors found Pell not guilty on the same unsupported, anonymous and contradictory evidence. Maybe the 2nd court case was either jury- rigged or brainwashed ?
    But then again, I read too many John Grisham books.

  6. Chris 9 September 2019 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    No, I’m sorry. I’m a Christian too, but I feel you are unwise to approach this as you have. You have committed the same fallacy that allowed people to not only hide but actually dismiss allegations of this nature on many occasions, resulting in the strong reaction on all fronts now. As Sean said, they key feature of abuse of many kinds is opportunity; unfortunately, that means the same conditions that create an opportunity also leave no corroborating evidence. The corroborating evidence might only be the scars mentally bourne by the accuser.
    Mr Pell is just a man. Judas betrayed Jesus, so did Peter. One repented, one didn’t. It is not as simple as you put it, for a guilty person may deny things because of consequences to a cause greater than themselves, which a person may think is a meritorious deed that may “atone” in part for his guilt. You also are prejudicial in this case, so have fear of God, and pray for Mr Pell as people who are uncertain, to a God who knows all, and take comfort in his justice. We don’t belong in this world, so don’t act like you do.

    • Vickie Janson 9 September 2019 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment. ‘The key of abuse is opportunity’ – with respect, that is what there seems to be reasonable doubt about.

  7. Michael White 9 September 2019 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    The trial and subsequent appeal of Cardinal Pell have caused me to have severe misgivings about the legal system in Victoria and the consequent affect on our society’s freedom.

    If we do not have ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ applied in criminal trials, it is not true to say that we live in a free society. It is one of the essential tenets of our liberty.

    Only the most basic familiarity with human nature is needed to know that one person’s word without corroborating evidence does not constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. It would be absurd to propose otherwise. Yet George Pell has been convicted on this very basis, leading to the conclusion that the principle of PBRD, as any member of the public would understand it, is absent in this case. This does not appear to have been the result of incompetence or lack of integrity in jurors or judges. They are operating in a legal system where it is apparently acceptable that one person’s word can constitute proof of a crime. Therein lies the problem.

    This case has been decided by determining if the accuser was speaking the truth, based on his testimony alone. There is no doubt that an experienced judge will have as good an ability as anyone to ascertain whether an accuser is speaking truthfully. However their ability is still sufficiently limited such that, if it is to be the sole basis on which guilt or innocence is determined, it would be no greater injustice to the accused to save the public purse a large sum, and flip a coin to determine a conviction.

    The predicament of an accused person under this new regime is compounded when the only evidence against him or her is allowed to be inconsistent on the basis that this is common in cases of child sex crimes. You’d be better off being accused of witchcraft in medieval times. Contrary to popular belief, the accused witch was actually attached to a rope, so that she could be retrieved alive should she innocently sink. There’s no such lifeline here. You’re damned if the testimony is consistent: you’re damned if the testimony is inconsistent.

    Supporting the principles of liberty is easy when there is no cost to doing so. It is when there is that our support is tested. That some historic sex offenders will walk free if the principle of PBRD is properly applied is most definitely a serious cost, yet it is the lesser of two evils.

    Our hands are not tied in being able to protect children. The much greater level of awareness of these crimes and their terrible effects on victims is a great protection in itself. Institutional settings are now far safer for children (domestic settings alas, may be a different matter). If these crimes do occur, in today’s environment it is likely that they will be reported much sooner, thus making corroborating evidence easier to obtain.

    In a society that has been genuinely hurt by institutional child sex abuse, what I’m saying is not what a lot of people want to hear. Hear it we must. We cannot have a legal system where one person’s word is all that is required to ruin someone’s reputation and put them in prison. The damage done by historic abuse is only compounded if it acts as a catalyst for jettisoning our liberty. The principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt must be restored.

  8. Shar 11 September 2019 at 2:07 am - Reply

    Very well written Vicky, thank you. Love Shar

  9. Camilla Hubbard 12 September 2019 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    I am not a Catholic, but I have always had great respect for Cardinal Pell, and for the stand he has made throughout his life against peadophilia, When only 1 alleged victim over a lifetime, comes forward, and the mother of the “other” says he had told her (prior to his suicide) that he had NOT been assaulted by Cardinal. Pell, I believe the victim is either trying to access money, or perhaps has a mental condition in which he imagines something happened and places a high-profile person in the picture. I am well aware of this happening, and have on several occasions been able to completely disprove the so-called “facts” however much the person believed it to be true. If Cardinal Pell was a paedophiole, surely others would have been saying “me too.” .

  10. Cody 1 October 2019 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    An interesting article, thanks for your thoughts, Vickie.

  11. […] recent High Court decision which unanimously—seven to zero—upheld the appeal of Cardinal George Pell against the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the original trial verdict of child […]

  12. […] Note: Cardinal Pell pens a moving reflection on his ordeal and how suffering can be redeemed through Jesus Christ, as exemplified by His sacrifice for us on […]

  13. […] A case of fact and faith, Vickie Janson, The Daily Declaration, September 5, […]

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