An Australian court’s rejection of an appeal by Cardinal George Pell of his conviction for historic sexual abuse “calls into the gravest doubt the quality of justice in Australia,” writes noted Catholic intellectual George Weigel in a stinging analysis Wednesday.
There is something “seriously wrong” with criminal law in the state of Victoria, Weigel writes, “where legal process now bears a parlous resemblance to what prevailed in the Soviet Union under Stalin.”
As Breitbart News reported, an Australian court rejected Cardinal Pell’s appeal Wednesday by a split judgment of 2-1, despite a lack of witnesses or evidence and relying solely on the testimony of the alleged victim.
Pell’s first trial in 2018 for accusations of sexually assaulting two choirboys when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s resulted in a hung jury, deadlocked at 10-2 in favor of declaring the cardinal “not guilty.”
In a second trial last December, however, a new jury found Pell guilty of the charges and in March an Australian judge sentenced Pell to six years in prison, with the possibility of parole after three years and eight months.
This “astonishing, indeed incomprehensible, decision” not to grant an appeal jeopardizes “the possibility of any Catholic cleric charged with sexual abuse to receive a fair trial or a fair consideration of the probity of his trial,” Weigel writes.
Weigel, author of the bestselling 1999 biography of Pope John Paul II, underscores that the whole of the evidence by which Cardinal Pell was convicted consisted solely in “the word of the complainant,” which was completely uncorroborated.
“Does the simple assertion of an alleged act of sexual abuse, no matter how implausible as to the nature of the act or the circumstances in which it was alleged to have been committed, constitute a legal ‘fact’ capable of destroying the life and reputation of one of Australia’s most distinguished citizens?” Weigel asks.
Since the 2018 Pell conviction, the legal community in Australia was already becoming deeply concerned about the reputation of Australian justice, Weigel notes.
Now, with this “thoroughly unpersuasive appellate decision,” he states, “reasonable people will wonder just what ‘rule of law’ means in Australia, and especially in the state of Victoria.”
“Reasonable people will wonder whether it’s safe to travel, or do business, in a social and political climate in which mob hysteria similar to that which sent Alfred Dreyfus to Devil’s Island can manifestly affect juries,” he says.
This “grotesque appellate decision” has confirmed that “a once-admirable part of the Anglosphere known for independent thinking has become something quite ignoble, even sinister,” he concludes.