Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell Conviction Stands

Cardinal George Pell. Outside court, wearing prison cloths and clerical collar
Cardinal George Pell loses appeal against sexual abuse convictions - BBC News

Cardinal Pell, former archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, formerly number three in the Vatican and the personal choice of Pope Francis to sort out the rapant financial corruption at the heart of the Catholic Church, has lost his appeal against conviction for child sexual abuse. Pell now becomes the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child abuse offences.

By a majority of two to one, the Australian appeal court judges upheld the conviction last December and dismissed the claim that the chief witness - one of the two whom Pell had sexually abused as a child - was unreliable and therefore there was insufficient evidence on which to convict.

As is so often the case, the first line of defence for Catholic clerics accused of child abuse, is to try to blacken their victims' name and cast doubt upon their character, in a classic example of false witnessing. Rarely do we see an admission of guilt or concern for the welfare of the victims, many of whom suffer years of depression and other psychological problem, not infrequently resulting in drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. Defend and protect the clerics and the church, and minimise any compensation, are the orders of the day.

The trial, and even the conviction, were sub judice pending Pell's trial in a different court for other alleged paedophile offences committed earlier in his career. However, when the decision was taken not to proceed with this second case last March, reporting restrictions were lifted and the conviction made public.

According to this report in The Tablet:

Pell was convicted of one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child.

Last December, a jury upheld the prosecution case that Cardinal Pell abused two choirboys, both aged 13, in the sacristy of Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral on a Sunday in December 1996, and then separately attacked one of the boys in the cathedral corridor early in 1997.

One of the victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014 without making any allegations against Pell.

Pell will now continue with his six-year sentence, of which he is expected to serve 3 years and eight months before being eligible for release. One can only hope the conditions which he now has to endure are a little less luxurious than the luxury apartment and lifestyle he quickly got used to in Rome, after being appointed financial controller at the Vatican.

Despite protests, given the seriousness of the charges against Pell in Australia, Pope Francis lifted him out of Australia and into the safety of the Vatican, seemingly dismissing the charges as unimportant. What he brought Pell into the Vatican ostensibly for was to sort of the finances and the rampant financial corruption and mismanagement that had become the norm under the increasingly senile Pope John-Paul II and the tainted reign of Pope Benedict XVI.

As revealed by Pope Benedict's 'butler', the Vatican Bank had become little more than an autonomous organization for money-laundering for organised crime and drug cartels, moving trillions of Euros across national borders under diplomatic immunity, so avoiding anti-corruption detection, while the Vatican had been on the verge of bankruptcy.

What Pell quickly discovered, and what made him some powerful enemies within the Curia, was that heads of departments had secret bank accounts containing very large sums of money which they could use at their own discretion and for which there were few if any records. The accounting and financial governance in the Vatican was shambolic and department heads ran their departments like their private estates with no record of where the money came from or what it was used for.

Confiscating these accounts at once transformed the Vatican's finances from near bankruptcy to very healthy, but made Pell the target of rumours and leaks that revealed that he too was not above using his position and his control of the finances to feather his own nest.

One leak, published in the Italian magazine L'Espresso in February 2015 was clearly intended to embarrass both Pell and Pope Francis. It revealed that Cardinal Pell spent €2508 ($3600) on religious robes at a tailor and about $6650 on kitchen-sink fittings. While Pope Francis adopts a 'humble' lifestyle in modest accommodation within the Vatican and travels on public transport, Pell flies around the world in business class, has employed an 'assistant' from Australia on a salary of $21,600-a-month, spends more than $5100 a month to rent an office and apartment at an upmarket address in Rome and spent nearly $87,000 on furniture for it.

Had he been less arrogant and less confrontational, and allowed the cosy arrangements in the Vatican to continue, it might have worked out differently for him. However, the child abuse scandal has if anything intensified making it almost impossible for Francis to be seen to be protecting paedophile priests of Pell's seniority, so, when the crunch came, Pell was relieved of his responsibilities in order to return to Australia to face trial.

Unlike the response to allegations against Cardinal McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington, USA and the most senior Catholic in America, accused of child and adult sexual abuses but never tried or convicted in a civil court, Pell remains a Cardinal 'pending the completion of the appeals process'. McCarrick was unceremoniously defrocked, though not excommunicated. It remains to be seen whether Pell, who could still theoretically attend a convocation to choose a new Pope if the prison authorities would allow him to, will face the same fate as McCarrick.

Last October, Pope Francis removed Pell, along with Cardinals Javier Errazuriz and Laurent Monsengwo, from the C-9 Council of Cardinals charged with helping the pope draft a new constitution for the Holy See’s governing structure.

Meanwhile, there has still been no response to the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI knew about (former) Cardinal McCarrick's sexual abuses and that Francis had lifted the restrictions Benedict had placed him under, in full knowledge of his predations. The code of omerta is because Francis has the choice to either accuse Benedict of doing nothing about McCarrick's behaviour or admit he derestricted him despite it, and in effect turned a blind eye to his predation.

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