Cardinal George Pell responds after successful High Court appeal

Author
Newstalk ZB / news.com.au,
Publish Date
Tue, 7 Apr 2020, 4:54PM
George Pell will likely keep his church titles and OAM now his convictions have been quashed. Picture: William West/AFP

Cardinal George Pell responds after successful High Court appeal

Author
Newstalk ZB / news.com.au,
Publish Date
Tue, 7 Apr 2020, 4:54PM

Cardinal George Pell is widely expected to keep his various titles following his successful High Court appeal against child sexual abuse convictions.

The most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of child sexual abuse had his convictions unanimously quashed this morning, meaning he will walk free from prison.

Pell released a statement this morning soon after the decision was revealed.

“I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” the statement reads.

“This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision.”

He said he looked forward to reading the judgment and the reasons for the decision, the latter of which span 38 pages.

Pell said justice had prevailed and thanked his legal term for their “unwavering resolve … to throw light on manufactured obscurity and to reveal the truth”.

He said he holds no “ill will” towards his accuser.

“I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” Pell said.

Now, attention is turning to what that legal decision will mean for Pell’s titles, including his OAM and his position within the Catholic Church.

OAM

Pell received a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005 for service to the Catholic Church in Australia and internationally, raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature and education and social justice.

He was convicted in December 2018 of raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting his friend after a Sunday Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996, sparking calls for his OAM to be stripped.

That was put on hold during the appeal process, but when he lost his first appeal in August 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated the process of revoking the honour would begin.

“And, of course, my understanding is that this would result in the stripping of the honours that are decided externally to the government, that is a process that is done independently and that course will now follow,” Mr Morrison told reporters at the time.

Now, attention is turning to the matter of his various titles, which were in doubt during the high-profile legal proceedings.−

However, Mr Morrison’s comments caused some confusion, as it was previously understood that if Pell’s appeal was rejected, the Prime Minister’s office would directly ask the Council for the Order of Australia to look into stripping Pell’s Companion of the Order of Australia.

That would involve writing to the Council of the Order of Australia and recommending it review and revoke the honour.

A decision could then be made on its recommendation by the governor-general.

But last year, governor-general David Hurley explained in a statement that Pell’s OAM would be revoked only “once all legal proceedings have run their course” — or after a High Court appeal was concluded.

Now his convictions have been quashed, it is expected Pell will retain his OAM.

News.com.au contacted the Prime Minister’s office for comment.

CHURCH TITLE

When Pell was first found guilty in December 2018, he kept the title of Cardinal within the Catholic Church.

The institution originally signalled it would wait for the appeal verdict before pursuing any further action — but later revealed an internal investigation was to be carried out by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which could have resulted in him being excommunicated, or dismissed or defrocked.

His five-year term as Vatican treasurer had already expired and he was booted from Pope Francis’ inner council of advisers.

Little information has been released regarding the internal church investigation, but again given Pell is now a free man, it is likely he will retain his church titles.