The trial, the specific charges, the testimony and almost
all other details involving the accusations against the 77-year-old
cardinal are covered by a court-issued "super injunction," which forbids
all media in Australia from reporting on it.
Pell is expected to appeal the conviction.
Sources said Pell pleaded not guilty to all charges but was found
guilty Dec. 11 by a jury of 12 people, who delivered a unanimous
verdict, as required by Victoria state statutes; the jury had
deliberated for more than three days.
The trial took place before Judge Peter Kidd of the County Court of
the State of Victoria; it was one of two trials Pell is reportedly
facing on accusations of abuse that allegedly occurred in the 1970s and
in the 1990s.
Following a monthlong pretrial hearing in May, the court ordered Pell
to stand trial on multiple charges of sexual abuse of minors, charges
the cardinal consistently denied. The trial was split in two: one for
the events in Melbourne in 1990s and one for the events in Ballarat in
The first trial, for the Melbourne events, began in August, but resulted in a hung jury, sources said.
One of the alleged survivors has died since the events and the other
gave evidence via video link to the court. Neither has been named.
Lawyers for Pell, led by Robert Richter, are understood to have
indicated they will appeal, but that would take place after the cardinal
is sentenced in February. The second trial, focusing on the alleged
events in Ballarat, reportedly will begin in March.
Catholic News Service was told that Australian media organizations
are petitioning the court to release details of the trial and verdict.
The court had issued the gag order to "prevent a real and substantial
risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice."
Although some of the initial charges brought by
prosecutors were dismissed, including what Pell's lawyer described as
the most "vile," Magistrate Belinda Wallington announced May 1 that she
believed there was enough evidence presented in connection with about
half the original charges to warrant a full trial.
Pell was appointed head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy by
Pope Francis in 2014 but took a leave of absence from his position in
mid-2017 to face the charges. His lawyer told the court May 1 that he
had already surrendered his passport.
Before leaving Rome, Pell had told reporters at a Vatican news
conference, "I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole
idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.
"These matters have been under investigation now for two
years," Pell told the press. "There's been relentless character
assassination, a relentless character assassination."
Following his time as archbishop of Melbourne, 1996-2001, Pell was
named archbishop of Sydney in 2001. He was made a cardinal by St. John
Paul II in 2003 and is, at present, the only Australian cardinal.
Pell has been an important and, at times, polarizing figure in
Australia. Supporters say his opposition to abortion and gay marriage
have made him many enemies, and they believe that while he was
archbishop of Melbourne he was the first bishop in the country to
proactively address the clergy sex abuse issue.