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April 7, 2020

Cardinal George Pell freed from prison after High Court overturns sex abuse conviction

BRISBANE (AUSTRALIA)
CNN

April 7, 2020

By Hilary Whiteman

Cardinal George Pell has been freed from prison after Australia's High Court unanimously overturned his conviction on five counts of historical child sex abuse.

The momentous decision, handed down Tuesday by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel, ends a five-year legal battle that started when a man in his 30s approached police alleging Pell had abused him as a child in the mid-1990s.

At the time, Pell was Vatican Treasurer and the highest ranking Catholic official to ever be publicly accused of child sex offenses. Pell strenuously denied the charges, which he dismissed in a 2016 police interview as a "product of fantasy."

In its two-page summary of the ruling, the High Court said that the jury "ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt with respect to each of the offenses for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place."

USTA Follows in Footsteps of US Gymnastics by Covering Up for a Serial Sexual Abuser

UNITED STATES
SNAP Network

April 06, 2020

As if we needed more examples that institutions cannot police themselves, the United States Tennis Association has provided the latest reason why all allegations of sexual abuse must be reported to and investigated by independent law enforcement officials.

While sports organizations nationwide were grappling with how to handle cases of sexual abuse in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, the USTA decided it was capable of doing what U.S/ Gymnastics could not: police itself. Yet as the case of Normandie Burgos shows, in the end USTA’s arrogance only put more children at risk.

USTA allowed Burgos to coach for three more years after he was arrested for sexual abuse, for the second time, in 2014. Rather than learn lessons from the Nassar scandal or the scandals within the Catholic Church, USTA instead decided to follow those institutions’ playbook. This scandal is an embarrassment for the USTA and yet another example of why institutions cannot be believed when they promise to police themselves.

George Pell: Decision to free cardinal 'not a particular surprise'

AUSTRALIA
BBC News

April 7, 2020

The High Court of Australia has quashed Cardinal George Pell's child sexual abuse convictions, allowing him to walk free from jail.

Former priest and historian Paul Collins gives his view on the decision, and what it means for the Catholic Church.

George Pell: church abuse victims shocked as cardinal walks free – video

AUSTRALIA
Reuters

April 7, 2020

Supporters of church abuse victims in Australia were shocked on Tuesday after Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic in the world to have been found guilty of historical child sexual abuse, was freed from prison.

"I just felt incredibly sad for survivors and any survivors who have spoken out. Because to me it was a bit like they've just been shot. It's huge news and it'll impact on so many people and it's made even harder because of the isolation at the moment," said Maureen Hatcher, founder of support group Loud Fence.

JAPANESE BISHOPS RELEASE LONG-AWAITED ABUSE REPORT

TOKYO (JAPAN)
ChurchMilitant

April 6, 2020

By Paul Murano

Decades-long record considered the 'tip of the iceberg'

Japanese bishops have at last published their findings on the sexual abuse of minors, almost 20 years after the investigative process began.

On April 5, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ) released the full report in an issue of Katorikku Shimbun (The Catholic Weekly) published by the bishops' conference. It will be uploaded in English to the CBCJ website on April 7.

In a cover message to the report, Nagasaki Abp. Mitsuaki Takami, president of the CBCJ, apologized for the delay. "Due to difficulty in understanding the situation and inadequate survey methods, this report is very late, but we have decided to now publish the results," he stated.

The investigation, conducted by the CBCJ's Desk for the Protection of Children and Women, found 16 cases of child abuse from the 1950s to the present. The decade with the largest number of cases was the 1960s, which had five. The sexual divide of abused girls to boys was nearly equal, though incomplete records make exact counts impossible.

Australia's High Court overturns sexual abuse convictions for George Pell, a former advisor to Pope Francis and Australia's most senior Catholic cleric

AUSTRALIA
Business Insider

April 6, 2020

By Rosie Perper

Australia's High Court has overturned Cardinal George Pell's conviction for sexual abuse, allowing him to walk free in time for Easter.

The court announced the decision on Tuesday morning local time.

"The High Court granted special leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria and unanimously allowed the appeal," the judgment reads.

Cardinal Pell’s Acquittal Was as Opaque as His Sexual Abuse Trial

SYDNEY (AUSTRALIA)
THE NEW YORK TIMES

April 7, 2020

By Damien Cave and Livia Albeck-Ripka

Critics argue that Australia’s courts exhibited a penchant for secrecy and insular decision-making that resembled the Roman Catholic Church’s flawed response to sexual abuse within its ranks.

Cardinal George Pell walked out of prison on Tuesday after Australia’s highest court reversed his 2018 conviction for molesting two choirboys decades earlier — liberating the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to ever face trial over child sexual abuse.

The world may never be able to assess whether the court’s reasoning was sound.

The panel of seven judges ruled that the jury lacked sufficient doubt about the accusations against Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Melbourne and treasurer for the Vatican. Jurors, the court argued, ignored “compounding improbabilities” caused by conflicting accounts from the cardinal’s main accuser and other witnesses.

But no one outside the court case can test that comparison. The central evidence — the testimony of the main accuser, on which the case “was wholly dependent,” the judges wrote — has never been released, not in video, audio nor even redacted transcripts.

Sexual Assault Charges Dropped Against 95-Year-Old Retired Priest In La Crosse

LA CROSSE (WI)
State News

April 7, 2020

A judge in La Crosse County has dismissed sexual assault charges which had been filed against a retired priest.

Monsignor Bernard McGarty had been accused of touching a woman inappropriately outside the La Crosse Library last May.

Cardinal Pell welcomes court's dismissal of abuse conviction

CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA)
Associated Press

April 7, 2020

By Rod McGuirk

Cardinal George Pell is welcoming Australia’s highest court clearing him of child sex crimes and says his trial had not been a referendum on the Catholic Church’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis

Cardinal George Pell welcomed Australia’s highest court clearing him of child sex crimes Tuesday and said his trial had not been a referendum on the Catholic Church’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis.

Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, had been the most senior Catholic found guilty of sexually abusing children and spent 13 months in prison before seven High Court judges unanimously dismissed his convictions.

“I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” Pell said in his first public statement since he was convicted in December 2018. It was released before he left prison and was taken to the Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne, where he was greeted by a nun.

George Pell's legal woes far from over: Cardinal will still have to face a surge of civil cases from alleged sexual abuse victims after being cleared of molesting two choirboys

AUSTRALIA
Daily Mail Australia

April 7, 2020

By Nic White

- Cardinal George Pell had his convictions for sexually assaulting boys quashed
- He still faces at least 10 potential civil lawsuits after he walked free from jail
- One is already filed alleging he did nothing to stop another priest abusing a boy
- Father of one of the choirboys in the quashed conviction case also plans to sue
- He blames Pell for his son's drug addiction that led to heroin overdose in 2014

Cardinal George Pell's legal woes are far from over even after he walked from prison a free man with his child sexual abuse convictions overturned.

Australia's most senior Catholic faces at least 10 potential civil lawsuits claiming he either molested other boys or covered up abuse by fellow priests.

One claim was filed in the Victorian Supreme Court last year by a victim of notorious paedophile priest Edward 'Ted' Dowlan, alleging Pell did nothing to protect him.

Melbourne lawyer Vivian Waller is handling eight other civil cases against the 78-year-old clergyman and more are expected from other complainants.

Vatican welcomes Pell verdict, affirms anti-abuse resolve as survivors protest

AUSTRALIA/ROME
Crux

April 7, 2020

By Elise Ann Allen

Editor’s Note: This piece is being updated throughout the day.

On Tuesday the Vatican said it welcomed the Australian High Court’s decision to acquit Cardinal George Pell on all charges of the sexual abuse, while also stressing their own commitment to pursuing justice for minors who have been abused.

In an April 7 statement just hours after the court’s verdict, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, “The Holy See, which has always expressed confidence in the Australian judicial authority, welcomes the High Court’s unanimous decision concerning Cardinal George Pell, acquitting him of the accusations of abuse of minors and overturning his sentence.”

“Entrusting his case to the court’s justice, Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, and has waited for the truth to be ascertained,” Bruni said, insisting that while celebrating the verdict the Holy See also “reaffirms its commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors.

Pope Francis decries 'unjust sentences' after cardinal George Pell acquitted

LONDON (ENGLAND)
The Guardian

April 7, 2020

By Harriet Sherwood

Vatican praises Australian cardinal for having ‘waited for the truth to be ascertained’

Pope Francis has recalled the “persecution that Jesus suffered” and has prayed for those who suffer “unjust sentences” hours after Australia’s highest court acquitted cardinal George Pell of child sexual abuse.

The court in Canberra quashed convictions that Pell sexually assaulted two choirboys in the 1990s, allowing the 78-year-old former Vatican economy minister to walk free from jail, ending the most high-profile case of alleged historical sex abuse to rock the Roman Catholic church.

At the start of mass, celebrated at his lodgings at Santa Marta on Tuesday morning and livestreamed, Pope Francis said: “I would like to pray today for all those people who suffer unjust sentences resulting from intransigence [against them].”

The Vatican also welcomed the acquittal, praising Pell in its first official statement for having “waited for the truth to be ascertained”. The Vatican said it had always had confidence in Australian judicial authorities and reaffirmed the Holy See’s “commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors”.

Francis did not mention Pell by name at mass, but compared the suffering of those inflicted with “unjust sentences” to the way Jewish community elders persecuted Jesus with “obstinacy and rage even though he was innocent”.

Each morning at the mass, Francis chooses an intention for the service, such as remembering the poor, the homeless or the sick. In recent weeks, the pope’s intentions for nearly all of his daily masses have been related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope also tweeted about the persecution of Jesus, without making specific reference to Pell. “In these days of Lent, we’ve been witnessing the persecution that Jesus underwent and how He was judged ferociously, even though He was innocent.

“Let us pray together today for all those persons who suffer due to an unjust sentence because someone had it in for them.”

Press Release

VILLAVICENCIO (COLOMBIA)
Archdiocese of Villavicencio

April 3, 2020

Comunicado a la Opinión Pública

La Arquidiócesis de Villavicencio, en virtud de su responsabilidad humana y social, y fiel a nuestro Señor Jesucristo, siguiendo los lineamientos dados por el Papa Francisco y la Conferencia Episcopal Colombiana de tolerancia cero con los abusos sexuales de parte de clérigos, da a conocer a la opinión pública que:

1. El pasado 14 de febrero de 2020 un ciudadano colombiano, mayor de edad, puso en conocimiento del organismo competente, hechos contra la moral sexual de parte de algunos sacerdotes de esta Arquidiócesis.

2. Conscientes de que estos actos son de suma gravedad, la Arquidiócesis de Villavicencio, deplora y siente un profundo dolor por esta situación. En el respeto y cumplimiento de las normas que la Iglesia católica contempla para este tipo de casos ha emprendido las siguientes acciones:

- Teniendo como prioridad a la presunta víctima, le expresamos nuestro profundo dolor y solidaridad y le hemos ofrecido un acompañamiento psico-espiritual. Ratificamos nuestro compromiso de actuar con claridad y transparencia para el bien de él y de la Iglesia.

- Conocida la noticia y siguiendo los protocolos de la Comisión Arquidiocesana de Protección de Menores esta noticia se puso en conocimiento de la Fiscalía seccional y nos pusimos en total disponibilidad para colaborar con las investigaciones que tengan lugar en este caso.

- La Arquidiócesis de Villavicencio inició un proceso de Investigación preliminar y decidió Ad Cautelam suspender del ejercicio del ministerio sacerdotal a los sacerdotes implicados. Esperando el inicio de proceso canónico penal y respetándoles el debido proceso.

Reiteramos que nos duele profundamente esta situación; para nosotros las víctimas y sus familias, siempre serán lo primero. De tiempo atrás, hemos emprendido iniciativas de trabajo y formación para la erradicación del terrible mal de los abusos dentro y fuera de nuestra institución.

Invitamos para que se den a conocer situaciones en donde alguno de nuestros miembros eventualmente haya traicionado su vocación de servicio y entrega al Señor y a la comunidad. Juntos haremos de nuestra Iglesia un lugar seguro para todos.

Finalmente, pedimos sus oraciones para que esta responsabilidad pastoral ante un desafío tan fuerte de nuestro tiempo, de los frutos esperados.

Colombian archbishop removes from ministry 15 priests accused of sexual abuse

DENVER (CO)
Catholic News Agency

April 7, 2020

Villavicencio, Colombia - The president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Óscar Urbina, suspended 15 priests of his archdiocese from ministry who have been accused of sexual abuse. Other jurisdictions in the country have removed four other priests.

Archbishop Óscar Urbina of Villavicencio told Colombian media that the accused priests represent 15% of the city’s priests.

The priests are accused of committing sexual abuse in Colombia, Italy and the United States, Caracol Radio reported.

Fr. Carlos Villabón, communications director and chancellor for the archdiocese of Villavicencio, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that the 15 priests were suspended while a canonical investigation proceeds at the Vatican.

“On March 16, 2020 these 15 priests were notified after a preliminary investigation was carried out. They are neither convicted nor acquitted by this suspension, only asked to relinquish their parish duties, cease celebrating the Eucharist and cease their ministerial service while the complete investigation is conducted,” the priest explained.

The results of the preliminary investigation “are now being sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, and there they will determine the gravity of the facts and what the Church calls a penal canonical process will be conducted,” Villabón said.

George Pell freed from prison after High Court quashes child sex abuse convictions

ULTIMO (NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA)
ABC

April 7, 2020

By Kate McKenna, Sarah Farnsworth, Staff and Wires

Cardinal George Pell has been driven from prison to a church property in Melbourne's inner east after the nation's highest court quashed his child sexual abuse convictions.

The unanimous decision has been handed down less than a month after the High Court of Australia heard two days of intense legal arguments from the Cardinal's lawyers and Victorian prosecutors.

Shortly before 12:30pm, Cardinal Pell was freed from Barwon Prison, leaving in a convoy of cars headed by a white Mercedes.

He was then taken to a church property in Melbourne's inner east, where a nun greeted him at the door and helped him inside.

Cardinal Pell, 78, who has consistently maintained his innocence, was serving a six-year jail sentence after he was convicted in 2018 of abusing two choirboys in the 1990s, while he was the archbishop of Melbourne.

He had been accused of committing the crimes after he found the boys swigging altar wine in the priests' sacristy after mass in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral.

A jury convicted him in 2018 — a decision that the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld in a two-to-one decision.

But his lawyers went to the High Court, arguing the appeal court failed to take proper account of evidence that cast doubt on his guilt.

Today the High Court handed down its decision, granting Cardinal Pell's application for special leave and unanimously acquitting him.

Why was George Pell's appeal successful when our justice system values jury verdicts?

ULTIMO (NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA)
ABC

April 7, 2020

By Rick Sarre

The High Court today quashed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, who had originally been found guilty on a number of charges by a jury of 12 people.

His defence counsel, Bret Walker SC, had argued before the High Court that the convictions in 2018 were unsound because it was not open to the jury to find Pell guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

He argued to the High Court the "sheer unlikelihood" of events and times aligning in the way that had been put forth by the prosecution to the trial judge and jury. He argued the story of the complainant could not be credible.

The High Court has now agreed.

A jury decides, but then …

Remember that, prior to the verdict, a jury of a dozen men and women had deliberated for almost five days before returning their verdicts of guilty on all five charges.

How is it that a jury's decision, after hearing all the evidence (with the exception of Pell himself) and deliberating for a considerable period of time, can be subverted by the opinion of an appeal court 16 months later?

To answer this question we need to look briefly at the appeal grounds that apply in the higher criminal courts. There are two broad grounds of appeal against conviction. Each is found in both the common law and legislation that pertains to these matters.

High Court takes the high road on question of passion or precedent

MELBOURNE (VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA)
The Age

April 7, 2020

By John Silvester

[Includes video: Attorney-General Christian Porter says if possible lifting redactions in Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, should occur.]

Not since Lindy Chamberlain lost her baby to a dingo at Uluru 40 years ago has a criminal case so polarised the community as Cardinal George Pell’s arrest, conviction and acquittal.

Both camps say Pell has been treated differently. His supporters say he was targeted because he was a high profile Catholic while his detractors believe his perceived power influenced the seven judges at the High Court to quash his conviction.

Arrant nonsense. Passion is replacing legal precedent.

The decision to overturn the Pell conviction is not about what happened inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 but what admissible evidence was available to prove what happened inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.

The High Court found that on the evidence put to the jury it should have found there was reasonable doubt. It did not find that Pell didn’t do it, nor that the complainant was a liar. It found there was sufficient doubt to demand an acquittal.

To overturn a jury decision is a huge call as it is the basis of the trial system. To do so means the High Court found the conviction a massive miscarriage of justice that had to be righted.

This was not one man’s word against another. In a criminal trial the allegation must be proved and without compelling corroboration it is simply impossible.

George Pell Freed After Australian Court Overturns Sex Abuse Conviction

NEW YORK (NY)
New York Times

By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave

April 7, 2020

The cardinal was the highest-ranking Roman Catholic leader ever found guilty of sexually abusing children.

Melbourne - Australia’s highest court on Tuesday overturned the sexual abuse conviction of Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic leader ever found guilty in the church’s clergy pedophilia crisis.

Cardinal Pell, 78, who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison last March for molesting two 13-year-old boys after Sunday Mass in 1996.

He walked free on Tuesday after a panel of seven judges ruled that the jury ought to have entertained a doubt about his guilt. The judges cited “compounding improbabilities” to conclude that the verdicts on five counts reached in 2018 were “unreasonable or cannot be supported by the evidence.”

In a statement, Cardinal Pell reiterated his assertion that he had committed no crimes. “I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” he said. “This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision.”

The verdict, handed down by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel to a largely empty courtroom in Brisbane because of social distancing measures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, shocked Catholics in Australia and around the world.

Cardinal Pell had receded from the public mind during his time in prison, and with the exception of his die-hard supporters, most Australians had come to accept his guilt as an established fact.

His case had dragged on for years. His first trial ended with a hung jury; his second carried on with a heavy shroud of secrecy as suppression orders limited what could be reported or even scrutinized.

The testimony of the case’s most important witness, a former choirboy who had stepped forward with his claims in 2015, was never made public, not even in transcripts. Legal experts said that made it difficult for the public to comprehend the complexity of the case, as well as the High Court’s ultimate ruling.

Statement

SYDNEY (NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA)
Archdiocese of Sydney

April 7, 2020

By Cardinal George Pell

I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice.

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

I look forward to reading the judgment and reasons for the decision in detail.

I hold no ill will toward my accuser, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough.

However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church.

The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.

The only basis for long term healing is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all.

A special thanks for all the prayers and thousands of letters of support.

April 6, 2020

Pell v The Queen

CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA)
High Court of Australia

April 7, 2020

Today, the High Court granted special leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria and unanimously allowed the appeal. The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.

On 11 December 2018, following a trial by jury in the County Court of Victoria, the applicant, who was Archbishop of Melbourne at the time of the alleged offending, was convicted of one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years and four charges of committing an act of indecency with or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years. This was the second trial of these charges, the jury at the first trial having been unable to agree on its verdicts. The prosecution case, as it was left to the jury, alleged that the offending occurred on two separate occasions, the first on 15 or 22 December 1996 and the second on 23 February 1997. The incidents were alleged to have occurred in and near the priests' sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne, following the celebration of Sunday solemn Mass. The victims of the alleged offending were two Cathedral choirboys aged 13 years at the time of the events.

The applicant sought leave to appeal against his convictions before the Court of Appeal. On 21 August 2019 the Court of Appeal granted leave on a single ground, which contended that the verdicts were unreasonable or could not be supported by the evidence, and dismissed the appeal.The Court of Appeal viewed video-recordings of a number of witnesses' testimony, including that of the complainant. The majority, Ferguson CJ and Maxwell P, assessed the complainant to be a compelling witness. Their Honours went on to consider the evidence of a number of "opportunity witnesses", who had described the movements of the applicant and others following the conclusion of Sunday solemn Mass in a way that was inconsistent with the complainant's account. Their Honours found that no witness could say with certainty that these routines and practices were never departed from and concluded that the jury had not been compelled to entertain a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt. Weinberg JA dissented, concluding that, by reason of the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses, the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have had a reasonable doubt.

George Pell High Court ruling on appeal against child sex abuse convictions to be handed down in a virtual vacuum

ULTIMO (NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA)
ABC

April 6, 2020

By Sarah Farnsworth and Elizabeth Byrne

It was never going to be a regular criminal court case by virtue of the man accused: Cardinal George Pell, who was a top advisor to the Pope when the allegations first surfaced that he had sexually abused two choirboys.

Yet the finale of the five-year legal saga on Tuesday morning — which could see George Pell released from jail — will be as unusual as it will be monumental.

While at previous stages of the case, victims' advocates and supporters of the Cardinal have come together outside courthouses, social-distancing measures have effectively outlawed such gatherings.

Instead, the High Court will deliver its decision on one of the most-watched cases in Australia's history in a virtual vacuum, with Chief Justice Susan Kiefel to hand down the full bench's ruling in an almost empty High Court registry in Brisbane.

The judges are in their home states and are not travelling because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hearing will be over in minutes, with the court tweeting its decision, before publishing its decision online.

It is a modern touch for a decision that is likely to have a lasting impact on one of the world's oldest institutions.

What could the High Court decide on Pell?

SYDNEY (NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA)
Australian Associated Press via 7 News

April 5, 2020

By Karen Sweeney

There are many possible outcomes of George Pell's appeal to the High Court.

Possible Appeal Bid Outcomes:

* Unanimous or Split Decisions

Like in any appeal court, the decision of the judges could be unanimous or it could be split. The majority decision will stand, which, in this case, would be a 4-3 split.

* Multiple Reasons

If all the judges reach the same decision for the same reasons, it's possible they'll hand down their decision in a single judgment.

If there is a split decision, then there'll be a majority judgment handed down. The decisions of the judges in the minority are called dissents.

Sometimes judges come to the same decision but for different reasons so they'll each publish their own reasons. That means there could be up to seven different opinions handed down.

* Special Leave Application Refused

The High Court has to grant Pell special leave to appeal before they can formally consider the appeal.

Usually this happens before the appeal hearing, but in Pell's case it was decided they'd hear the appeal arguments before making a decision on granting special leave.

If special leave is refused, Pell's conviction will stand and he will remain behind bars.

* Special Leave Application Granted

If the High Court determines there is a legal question for them to consider, then they'll grant special leave.

After that, there's a few paths they can follow:

George Pell’s bid for freedom: high court verdict to decide cardinal's future

LONDON (ENGLAND)
Guardian

April 6, 2020

By Melissa Davey

Australian high court’s decision is Pell’s last chance to overturn conviction for historical child sexual abuse

On Tuesday, almost two years after being committed to stand trial on multiple charges of historical child sexual abuse, the case against the former financial controller of the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, will likely end with him either walking free or remaining in jail to serve the rest of his sentence.

After failing to appeal to Victoria’s appellate court in August, Pell’s legal team took his case to the high court, the final avenue in his bid for freedom. Across two days in March, the full bench of seven justices heard Pell’s barrister Bret Walker SC argue that Victoria’s appellate judges, who dismissed Pell’s first appeal in 2019 by a majority of two-to-one, may have been unduly influenced by the complainant’s testimony by watching a recorded video of it rather than just reading the transcript of his evidence.

Walker also argued that just because the complainant was believable and compelling, it should not have led jurors to discount other evidence that placed his evidence in doubt. The director of the Office of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, responded by saying that given Pell’s legal team made so much of the complainant’s lack of credibility and believability, Victoria’s appellate court was entitled to watch the video. It did not mean they had elevated it above other evidence, or that they had not given due weight to other evidence from the trial, she said. She added that the entire body of evidence considered together gave weight to the complainant’s account, rather than discrediting it.

New safe space for child victims of crime in Scotland

GLASGOW (SCOTLAND)
BBC

April 5, 2020

A new centre designed to support child victims and witnesses of crime is to be opened in Scotland.

Children will be able to be interviewed in the child-friendly facility, away from police stations and courtrooms.

But they can also receive medical care and support to help them recover from trauma in an environment designed to look like a family home.

Locations are being scouted for the base following a £1.5m boost from the People's Postcode Lottery.

Project partner Children 1st said the centre would "end the nightmares of thousands of children".

The charity's chief executive Mary Glasgow said the centre would "transform" Scotland's systems of justice, health, care and protection.

Andover pastor cleared of sexual abuse charge, returns to church

ANDOVER (MA)
Andover Townsman

April 2, 2020

By Paul Tennant

The Rev. Peter Gori has been reinstated as pastor of St. Augustine Church, the Archdiocese of Boston announced this week.

Gori is expected to resume his duties by Sunday – which is Palm Sunday – according to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston.

Gori, a member of the Order of St. Augustine since 1973, was placed on administrative leave in April 2019 after a man, now in his 40s, claimed that Gori and another priest, the Rev. William Waters, sexually abused him more than 30 years ago.

“I assure you, as I assured the provincial, that the accusation is false,” Gori wrote in a letter to parishioners when the allegation surfaced. The provincial, the regional leader of Augustinian priests in the eastern U.S., had informed Gori of the accusation.

The Augustinian order relied on an independent investigator, Praesidium Inc., as well as the order’s independent review board in concluding the allegation could not be substantiated, according to a press release issued by the Archdiocese of Boston.

Australia’s highest court to judge cardinal’s abuse appeal

CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA)
Associated Press via Washington Post

April 6, 2020

By Rod McGuirk

Australia’s highest court on Tuesday will judge Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against convictions for molesting two teenage choirboys more than two decades ago. But the legal battle over the world’s most senior Catholic convicted of sexually abusing children may not end there.

The High Court could deliver Pope Francis’ former finance minister a sweeping victory or an absolute defeat. Or the seven judges could settle on one of several options in between that could extend the appeal process for another year or more.

The 78-year-old cleric cleric has spent 13 months in two high-security prisons at high risk of having a coronavirus outbreak, and he would have strong grounds for being released on bail if the court case is extended.

Pell was sentenced by a Victoria state County Court judge in March last year to six years in prison for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in a back room of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in December 1996 while he was archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city.

Pell was also convicted of indecently assaulting one of the boys by painfully squeezing his genitals after a Mass in early 1997. Pell must serve three years and eight months behind bars before he becomes eligible for parole.

One of the former choirboys died of a heroin overdose in 2014 aged 31. Pell has largely been convicted on the testimony of the survivor, now the father of a young family aged in his 30s, who first went to police in 2015. The identities of both victims are concealed by state law.

A jury had unanimously convicted Pell of all five charges in December 2018, but he was spared prison for three months while he underwent replacement surgery for both knees.

The High Court has examined whether the Victorian Court of Appeal was correct in its 2-1 majority decision in August to uphold the jury verdicts.

April 5, 2020

Opinion: 'Get Pell' an unhealthy endorsement for Victorian Justice, regardless

AUSTRALIA
CentralAsiaNews.net

April 5, 2020

Chris Friel

The allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal Pell were investigated by the Victorian Police, in particular by Taskforce SANO. This note gathers together some pertinent questions. In the wake of the Carl Beech case in the UK Sir Richard Henriques was asked to report on Operation Midland,[i] and I would urge that something of the order of a judge led inquiry is needed to understand Operation Tethering. This somewhat disordered list is written in the hope that one day we may get a comprehensive insight into what was going on.

1. Tethering. We begin with this get Pell operation (Robert Richter), or as Paul Sheridan termed it, the Intel Probe, set up in 2013.[ii] Clearly, that was before R had died (in 2014) and J had complained (in 2015). Apparently, it was the inspiration of Michael Dwyer.[iii] How did it come about? Here we would point out the association with Byline (Lucie Morris Marrs platform) and Exaro News who were so heavily involved in the Carl Beech case.[iv]

Justice checks suspected abuse in Catholic children's home

BAVARIA (GERMANY)
Web24.news

April 5, 2020

Is it a “second Ettal”? A former pupil of the Catholic Piusheim in Bavaria reported massive abuse in court – not the first allegation of this kind.

The judiciary is investigating allegations of abuse against a former Catholic children’s and youth home in the municipality of Baiern near Munich. The public prosecutor’s office in Munich II, according to its own statements, initiated preliminary investigations against a former educator of the youth village Piusheim as well as a priest at the time.

The background to the investigation is allegations of massive sexual abuse that became known as part of a trial before the Munich II Regional Court. A 56-year-old man, who is himself accused of serious abuse of young children, had shown in court that he had been abused by several men in Piusheim, among others, in his childhood and adolescence.

The witness also spoke of prostitution and “sex parties” around the home. “Ninety percent of the boys went out and stole the villagers at the weekend, ten percent went to Munich to buy.” Two of his friends had hanged himself, and he himself had tried to commit suicide as a child.

Titus Trust settles with ‘bash camp’ abuse victims

ENGLAND
The Guardian

April 5, 2020

By Harriet Sherwood

Boys’ lives were blighted after sadistic beatings by John Smyth more than 40 years ago, successor group admits

A Christian organisation whose forerunner ran holiday camps that led to boys being beaten sadistically has reached a settlement with three men and acknowledged that “lives have been blighted”.

The Titus Trust has expressed “profound regret” for the abuse carried out by John Smyth QC and has apologised for “additional distress” caused by the way the trust responded to the allegations.

The abuse scandal at the so-called “Bash camps” in the 1970s and 80s embroiled Justin Welby, who is now the archbishop of Canterbury, and who worked at the Christian holiday centres in the 1970s.

After allegations of abuse and its cover-up emerged three years ago, Welby said he knew Smyth but had been “completely unaware” of any abuse at the time. He apologised on behalf of the Church of England, which later ordered an independent review into the allegations.

DA's office reveals evidence to be introduced in child sex trial

TEXARKANA (TX)
Texarkana Gazette

April 5, 2020

By Lynn LaRowe

The notice alleges local pastor's wife was aware of his child sexual abuse and attempted to conceal it.

Prosecutors filed a notice Friday of evidence they intend to introduce at the trial of a local pastor charged with 18 felonies involving alleged child sexual abuse.

Logan Wesley III, 56, was arrested in November on a single felony charge involving one alleged victim. In February, a Bowie County grand jury returned three indictments involving three different girls which list a total of 18 felony counts. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp filed a notice Friday of the state's intent to introduce other evidence of Wesley's alleged misconduct.

The notice alleges Wesley's wife was aware of his child sexual abuse and attempted to conceal it. Wesley's wife allegedly contacted one of the alleged victims on social media in July 2018 and asked her to keep silent and show "grace and mercy" because "she was worried about what the publicity would do for her son's budding music career and her child daycare business," the notice states.

Coronavirus: I'm in lockdown with my abuser

BBC News

March 31, 2020

By Megha Mohan

With much of the world on coronavirus lockdown, there are warnings that those living with domestic abuse could become hidden victims of the pandemic.

In the UK, calls to the national abuse hotline went up by 65% this weekend, according to the domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales. Meanwhile, the UN has warned that women in poorer countries and smaller homes are likely to have fewer ways to report abuse.

The BBC has spoken to two women who are currently under lockdown with men who they say have abused them.

Bishop Zubik holds on to hope amid shutdown

PITTSBURGH (PA)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 5, 2020

By Peter Smith

In mid-March, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik joined other Pennsylvania Roman Catholic bishops in lifting the usual obligation that Catholics attend weekend Mass — an action that, combined with a growing public wariness of public gatherings amid the coronavirus threat, led to far lower attendance than usual.

That was just the beginning.

After that weekend of March 14-15, Bishop Zubik canceled Masses and other large church gatherings entirely, while arranging for priests to hear confessions in more spacious but still-confidential settings. Some priests kept their sanctuaries open for individual prayer, and there was still opportunity for small gatherings for baptisms or funerals. Confirmations and first communions were canceled for the last half of March, then for April.

Prisons’ Passion: Via Crucis meditations reflect on aftermath of crime

VATICAN CITY
Catholic News Service via Catholic Virginian

April 4, 2020

By Junno Arocho Esteves

While Pope Francis’ Way of the Cross service on Good Friday has been transferred to the Vatican because of the coronavirus pandemic, the meditations focus, as always, on those who share the pain, suffering and heartbreak that characterized Christ’s passion and death.

In a letter published in an Italian newspaper in early March, Pope Francis said he chose the Catholic community of the Due Palazzi prison in Padua so that the meditations would reflect on the lives of those involved in the prison system to illustrate how “the resurrection of a person is never the work of an individual, but of a community walking together.”

The result is a set of meditations on the traditional 14 stations written not only by prisoners, but also by people directly affected by crime, including prisoners’ families, victims and even a priest falsely accused of a crime.

National media outlets seek to unseal files from 2015 Tom Benson mental competency lawsuit

NEW ORLEANS (LA)
NOLA.com

April 3, 2020

By Ramon Antonio Vargas

National media outlets are asking a New Orleans court to unseal confidential motions and other documents filed when estranged relatives of late Saints owner Tom Benson challenged his mental competency five years ago.

The sealed filings stem from a blockbuster lawsuit in 2015 that pitted Benson against his daughter and grandchildren. They argued that the billionaire owner of the NFL's Saints and NBA's Pelicans was mentally unfit when he transferred ownership of his business empire to his third wife, Gayle.

Pell decision to come in unusual times

AUSTRALIA
Australian Associated Press via the West Australian

April 5, 2020

By Karen Sweeney

Deep inside Melbourne's imposing St Patrick's Cathedral, two young boys dressed in their choir robes snuck off to swig sacramental wine in the priest's sacristy.

It was a room forbidden to all but a few - certainly off limits to the likes of the two 13-year-olds who found their way inside after a Sunday Mass.

By some accounts that area is a hive of activity on Sunday mornings, but for six minutes one day in December 1996 the two boys found themselves in there alone with now-Cardinal George Pell.

"He planted himself in the doorway and said something like 'what are you doing here' or 'you're in trouble'," one of the boys said of the then-archbishop.

Dressed in his ornamental robes Pell exposed himself and molested one of the boys. He then pleasured himself and raped the other.

Those events are a "product of fantasy" and "absolute rubbish", Pell told police when confronted with the allegations in Rome four years ago.