Cardinal George Pell will remain in jail after his appeal was denied, 2-1, by an Australian court.
It was only a few months ago when Pell was sentenced to jail for six years, with no chance for parole for at least three years and eight months, for the child sex abuse he was convicted of back in December. (Given that Pell faced up to 50 years behind bars — 10 years for each of the five charges against him — he got off easy.)
Still, that was six years behind bars for the highest ranking Catholic leader yet to be found guilty for child sex abuse — or, as his lawyer callously called it, nothing more than a “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating.”
His lawyers argued on appeal that there was no way the jury could have found him guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” because the witness testimony was so flimsy.
“Nobody apart from the alleged victims and the alleged perpetrator were present in the room,” said Bret Walker, the lawyer representing Cardinal Pell at the appeal. Activities after the Sunday Mass, Mr. Walker added, would have made it either “impossible” or “so unlikely” as to leave no realistic possibility for Cardinal Pell to molest them.
No one else saw him molest them and he had better things to do than molest them.
Not quite slam-dunk arguments… Pell’s lawyers also argued a couple other technical issues, but they didn’t seem to make much of a difference. If they want to appeal again. they can ask the High Court of Australia to step in, but even for Pell, that’s a long shot.
In the meantime, the Catholic Church is losing members faster than it can keep them in. The fact remains that members who remain in the Church are actively defending a criminal organization, whatever their justifications may be. The Catholic Church had every opportunity to distance itself from predator priests a long time ago. The fact that it took secular courts to bring Pell to justice is a clear sign that the Church needs policing since it can’t play watchdog to itself.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)