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The latest on Cardinal Pell's appeals

Updated November 20, 2019


To balance public debate on the case, we invite people to email and share on social media, download and print articles you consider most relevant, and distribute widely.  For a similar assembly of commentary (March 2019) relating to Cardinal Pell’s trials and sentencing click here.  


A leading interview on the Victorian court appeal, and an earlier one on the conviction:

Online briefing on appeal decisionPeter Westmore and Terri M. KelleherNews Weekly/National Civic Council, August 22, 2019.

Former NCC national president Peter Westmore, who attended every day of both of Cardinal Pell’s trials, as well as the appeal and the appeal decision, speaks with lawyer Terri M. Kelleher about the significance of the quashing of the appeal and also of the significance of Justice Mark Weinberg’s extensive dissent from the majority decision.



Online briefing on the sentencing of Cardinal PellPeter Westmore and Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly/National Civic Council, March 13, 2019.

NCC national president Patrick J. Byrne speaks with Former NCC national president Peter Westmore, who attended every day of both of Cardinal Pell’s trials as well as the sentencing, about the sentencing of the Cardinal, which itself was livestreamed online and carried on television.


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* The Queen v Pell: A blight on the whole of the criminal justice system, Charles Anthony Smith, Annals Australasia, September 2019.

I have never seen a clearer illustration of prejudgement than this case. An avalanche of adverse publicity, a Royal Commission, even a book judging his guilt led up to his day in court. I say this as a former lawyer, not from any religious perspective.

A last chance for Australian justice, George Weigel, Crisis Magazine, December 4, 2019.

My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.


Vatican officials: Swiss bank suspected of money laundering led to Pell conflict, Ed Condon, Catholic News Agency, November 21, 2019.

The attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell. When Cardinal Pell began to demand details of the loans, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand”.


Troubling questions remain, Monica Doumit, The Catholic Weekly, November 20, 2019.

Just because the Cardinal’s legal team argued that the offending was “impossible”, did it have to prove it was so for a “not guilty” verdict to be given?


It’s not just jail for George Pell, this is torture, Mirko Bagaric, The Australian, November 18, 2019. 

George Pell has reportedly spent all of the time he has been incarcerated (almost nine months) in solitary confinement. He is let out of his cell for just an hour a day. That such a high-profile Australian is being subjected to these brutal conditions should be the catalyst to start the debate to abolish the use of this form of incarceration for all Australian prisoners.


* George Pell’s appeal to the High Court, Russell Marks, The Saturday Paper, November 16, 2019.

I’m no defender of George Pell’s. As David Marr’s researcher for his 2013 essay examining Pell’s complicity in the Australian Church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse, I was very open to suggestions that he might have been more directly implicated. But as well as providing avenues for successful prosecutions, the justice system must afford people – even people we don’t like – opportunities to defend themselves against allegations that cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt.


* Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court  Peter Westmore, News Weekly, November 13, 2019

November 2019: Two judges of the High Court dismissed all requests before them but one, Cardinal Pell's, and have asked Pell's team to bring their argument to the full bench of the High Court "as on appeal", while not technically granting leave for the appeal yet.  This was the same approach taken to Pell's appeal by the Victorian Court of Appeals.


* George Pell sex-abuse conviction must be examined, Peter Baldwin, The Australian, November 15, 2019.

I have never been a huge fan of George Pell, sharing neither his religious convictions nor his conservative world view. However, I was relieved by the decision of the High Court this week to hear his final appeal.

This follows the decision in August by a majority of the Victorian Court of Appeal to uphold the jury verdict convicting Pell of criminal sexual abuse. I was surprised and disconcerted, astonished actually, by this outcome, so much so I ploughed through all 325 pages of the majority judgment by justices Anne Ferguson and Chris Maxwell and the longer dissenting judgement by Justice Mark Weinberg in an effort to understand where their reasonings diverged.


Why Cardinal Pell could not have committed these crimesAndrew BoltHerald Sun, November 14, 2019.

At last, Cardinal George Pell could get the justice he deserves. The High Court has agreed to hear his appeal. Next step: it must now decide whether Pell was, as I believe, wrongly convicted of the sexual assault of two choir boys.


Summary of the Pell Papers,Chris Friel, Academia.com, November 2019.

This is a brief summary of the work I have done on the Pell case followed by a bibliographical note, also on my Academia page. Includes links for all 56 articles.


The six burning questions surrounding George Pell’s appealTom PercyThe West Australian, November 13, 2019.

Appeals to the High Court are only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. You need to satisfy two judges of the court that the case is one befitting the High Court’s consideration, that there are reasonable prospects of success, and that the point to be argued is of some considerable significance in legal terms. Grants of special leave are quite rare. In 40 years of legal practice, I’ve never succeeded in obtaining a grant of special leave to the High Court.


Where the Pell judgement went fatally wrongJohn FinnisQuadrant Online, September 9, 2019.

Take a short tour of the majority judgment of the Court of Appeal, the fuller transcript of the complainant’s allegations in pars 415–55 of the dissenting judgement, and then the Wikipedia account of Operation Midland. You will see the Judgement fall apart under your eyes.


Justice not only done but seen to be doneJohn Brazier, Facebook, August 26, 2019.

We have a long tradition of open justice, where our judges do not make decisions behind closed doors, but they are required to publish their reasoning in detail.


Why Cardinal Pell is appealing to the High CourtPeter WestmoreNews Weekly, September 7, 2019.

I attended both trials of Cardinal Pell, at which about 20 cathedral witnesses gave evidence, as well as the hearing before the Court of Appeal. I heard no evidence that supported the complainant’s version of events, and almost every witness contradicted him, when asked questions resulting from his allegations.


Pell: A case of fact and faithVickie JansonThe Daily Declaration, September 5, 2019.

One would expect that Cardinal George Pell at 78 has not lost his faith in God. Yet, one would expect that a guilty man at his stage of life maintaining his innocence would in fact have no fear of God.


* The contradictions of the choirboyKeith WindschuttleQuadrant Online, September 2, 2019.

The problem for the appeal court judges reviewing the conviction of George Pell for a sexual assault on two choirboys in the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in December 1996 was always that there was only one witness for the prosecution, but more than twenty witnesses who gave contrary evidence for the defence at the trial.


* The networks that snared George PellPaul CollitsQuadrant Online, September 1, 2019

The cast of the anti-Catholic drama that over a period of nearly 20 years worked together and apart to bring down Cardinal Pell.


A judge’s doubtsJeremy GansInside Story, August 29, 2019.

Did all three judges overstep the mark in deciding George Pell’s appeal?


The questions that linger after Cardinal Pell’s appealGerard BradleyThe Catholic Weekly, August 28, 2019.

One small mercy of the unwelcome appellate setback is that I am now certain that Cardinal George Pell is innocent. The basis for affirming Cardinal Pell’s innocence lies in the evidence now recounted in extraordinary detail across the 325 pages of the appellate corpus.

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* Troubled by Pell judgmentsLettersThe Australian, August 28, 2019.

“If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times from judges of impeccable pedigree in the criminal justice system during their summing up and said it, too, in a final address to any number of juries: ‘You must be satisfied of the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt’. Or another variant: ‘If you have any reasonable doubt about the evidence of the complainant, your duty is to acquit.’ ”


When the barely possible counts against youPeter SmithQuadrant Online, August 24, 2019.

Two of the three judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal adjudged that it was not impossible for Cardinal Pell to have committed the alleged offences despite all of the logistical difficulties. I have enormous trouble getting my head around the logic and force of this argument.


Archbishop still believes George Pell is innocent of child sex abuseRemy VargaThe Australian, August 23, 2019.

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli believes the complainant against Cardinal Pell may have identified the wrong person to police.


Catholics divided as George Pell loses his appeal against sexual abuse conviction7.30, ABC, August 21, 2019.

Bishop Peter Elliott in the wake of the appeal verdict speaks of his certainty that Cardinal Pell is innocent.


How faith was lost on judgement day for a state legal systemPaul KellyThe Australian, August 24, 2019.

Justice Mark Weinberg’s dissent is long and closely reasoned, ensuring grave doubts about Pell’s guilt will not be dissipated by the 2-1 verdict against him.


The Pell outrage: ‘Vibe’ trumps veracityGeoffrey LuckQuadrant Online, August 23, 2019.

Contrary to first impressions, the judgment of the Victorian Appeal Court will give Cardinal George Pell his path to freedom. It has been constructed – I suspect deliberately and by agreement – to render the certainty of a review by the High Court, which can only find the original conviction wholly unreasonable according to the evidence.

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A certain disease of the lawDr Douglas FarrowThe Catholic World Report, August 23, 2019.

One thing we’ve learned from the Cardinal Pell case is that unless the presumption of innocence is reaffirmed, even in cases involving sexual crimes, your conviction or mine might be next.


* Pell v the Queen: Abbreviation of Mark WeinbergChris FrielAcademia, August 2019.

A 19-page summary of Justice Mark Weinberg’s dissenting opinion in Cardinal Pell’s appeal.


No country for old CatholicsCatallaxy Files, August 22, 2019 (Guest Author).


The Australian disgraceGeorge WeigelFirst Things, August 21, 2019.

This astonishing, indeed incomprehensible, decision calls into the gravest doubt the quality of justice in Australia – and the possibility of any Catholic cleric charged with sexual abuse to receive a fair trial or a fair consideration of the probity of his trial.


Cardinal Pell scapegoatMatthew SchmitzFirst Things, August 21, 2019.

The conviction of Pell is an outrage – not because he is a cardinal of the Catholic Church, but because the case against him was not proved, and could not be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt.


About this resource page

This page presents many commentators who have questioned the quashing of Cardinal Pell’s appeal against his conviction on child sex abuse charges. Some commentators are Catholic. A few are Catholic but not friends of Cardinal Pell. Many are non-Catholic or not religious.

Several of them pay a lot of attention to Justice Mark Weinberg’s dissent from the majority opinion that quashed the appeal and upheld the convictions. Justice Weinberg startlingly lamented that his fellow justices found that the trial jury’s decision against Cardinal Pell was “safe” and that the jury was correct to find the case against Cardinal Pell to have been proved “beyond reasonable doubt”. Many commentators also point to the length and thoroughness of Justice Weinberg’s opinion, especially as compared with the brevity of the majority opinion. The glaring problems with the trial and the appeal have led to many questioning whether Victoria’s justice system is as objective as it could be.

Justice for victims of child sexual abuse is not achieved if a person is wrongly convicted and made a scapegoat for the heinous crimes of others. We point to the infamous legal cases of people wrongly convicted, such as Lindy Chamberlain in the Northern Territory in the 1980s, Alfred Dreyfus in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and, more recently, Josephine Greensill, a Melbourne teacher who was wrongly convicted in 2010 of child sexual abuse and spent 2½ years of a seven-year sentence in prison before being acquitted.


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