Cardinal Pell Critic Says Prelate Was Victim of ‘Relentlessly Prejudiced’ Media Campaign

Australian Cardinal George Pell (R) gets into a car after landing at Rome's Fiumicino airport on September 30, 2020, returning for the first time since being acquitted of sexual abuse charges. - Pell arrived from Sydney to Rome on September 30, 2020 on a "private visit", just six months after …
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Cardinal George Pell was unjustly tried for sex abuse as a “necessary big scalp for media delectation,” writes Jesuit Father Frank Brennan, a vocal critic of Pell’s.

Having attended parts of his two criminal trials and having studied all the publicly available transcript, “I am convinced of Cardinal Pell’s innocence of the criminal charges he faced,” Father Brennan writes in his book Observations on the Pell Proceedings, to be released Thursday.

“I am convinced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse failed to accord him natural justice in its pursuit of a necessary big scalp for media delectation,” states Brennan, Rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne.

Cardinal Pell endured “404 days of wrongful imprisonment, much of it in solitary confinement,” the author notes. “The time has come to attest that Pell worked tirelessly and to the best of his ability from 1996 to put right the dreadful consequences of institutional child sexual abuse.”

Putting aside his ongoing differences with the Australian cardinal, Brennan declares that people must recognize the unfair and shameful manner in which Pell was treated.

“Pell faced charges that should never have been brought, a prosecution that was malicious, a Victorian appeal court that got it very wrong, and a media campaign that was relentlessly prejudiced,” Brennan states.

Cardinal Pell pleaded not guilty to child sexual assault charges in 2018 but the public knew little of the proceedings because the trial judge imposed a suppression order, prohibiting the media from publicizing the evidence and court proceedings, notes the book’s webpage.

The Australian Catholic bishops asked Father Brennan to follow the proceedings and to offer commentary on the conduct of the proceedings once the suppression orders were lifted, and Cardinal Pell granted Brennan access to the published transcript of the proceedings.

Brennan “identifies the failures of the Victoria police, prosecution authorities, and Victoria’s two most senior judges,” the page states, and Brennan concludes that these failures “did nothing to help the efforts being made to address the trauma of institutional child sexual abuse.”

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