CANBERRA, Australia (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal George Pell will make his final appeal before the High Court of Australia in Canberra.
Sources close to Pell are telling Australian media the cardinal will be petitioning Australia's highest court to review a split decision rendered last week by the appeals court in Victoria that upheld his conviction. If the court grants Pell leave to appeal, it will be Pell's final chance to overturn his controversial conviction of clerical sex abuse.
The victim alleged the abuse took place in 1996 at St. Patrick's Cathedral while Pell was archbishop of Melbourne. The current archbishop of Melbourne, Abp. Peter Comensoli, is being grilled for saying he thinks Pell is innocent. During an interview one day after last week's ruling, Comensoli was asked if he personally believed that Pell was guilty.
"I believe in what he said to me, on many occasions, that he's innocent and I continue to be really quite shocked with all of how things are developed," affirmed Comensoli.
"It's distressing for so many reasons," asserted Keneally on Sunday.
"Here we have an archbishop just declaring he is going to break the law rather than report a child sexual abuse that is revealed to him in the confessional," Keneally said.
"But there has never been any 'evidence' that Cardinal Pell did what he was alleged to have done. There was only the word of the complainant, and there was absolutely no corroboration of his charges," asserts Weigel.
"Why is it simply assumed, on the basis of his videotaped testimony," adds Weigel, "that the complainant has a clear memory of what he alleged to have happened — especially when the entire scenario of the alleged abuse is implausible in the extreme?"
Another person asking similar questions is Justice Mark Weinberg, who alone ruled last week in favor of Pell's innocence contrary to the majority ruling by Ferguson and the other justice.
In his dissenting opinion, Weinberg wrote, "An unusual feature of this case was that it depended entirely upon the complainant being accepted, beyond a reasonable doubt, as a credible and reliable witness. Yet the jury were invited to accept his evidence without there being any independent support for it."
Writing in February after the second trial convicted Pell, Weigel laid out the reasons why the accusations against Pell are so "implausible."
"During the retrial," relates Weigel, "the defense demonstrated that, in order to sustain the charge that Pell had accosted and sexually abused two choirboys after Mass one Sunday, ten improbable things would have had to have happened and all within ten minutes":
The actual people around Pell involved in these above scenarios are called opportunity witnesses, and many testified on Pell's behalf. Weigel asked in his Wednesday article why their testimony was so easily dismissed:
Judge Ferguson also referred to the "uncertain memory" of the "opportunity witnesses" who testified on the cardinal's behalf, to the effect that the acts of sexual abuse alleged to have been committed simply could not have happened given the circumstances of a cathedral full of people, the brief time frame of the alleged acts, and the cardinal's vesture.
The first jury trial in October listened to the above evidence and exonerated Pell. Witnesses attending the trial said the jury voted 10-2 in favor of Pell's acquittal. In his dissenting opinion, Weinberg said such testimony would have exonerated Pell.
"All of these witnesses were important," added Weinberg, "but there were some whose evidence was critical. It can fairly be said that their evidence, if accepted, would lead inevitably to acquittal."
Weigel points out Pell is ultimately looking toward an even higher court for his exoneration, namely, the divine tribunal.
"Cardinal Pell has said to friends in recent months," wrote Weigel, "that he knows he is innocent and that 'the only judgment I fear is the last one.'"