Cardinal George Pell was released last week from an Australian prison, having spent 405 days behind bars for crimes of which he is not guilty. The High Court of Australia was unanimous in its judgment that the case against Pell had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Had the jury “acted rationally on the whole of the evidence,” it could not have returned a guilty verdict.
When Pell’s first appeal was denied last year, some people insisted that the judgment of the Australian legal system was irreproachable, and that Pell’s defenders just needed to come around to the fact that their man was guilty. Now that Pell has been acquitted on all charges, many of those voices have changed their tune, questioning the impartiality of a unanimous High Court. Other voices have fallen silent altogether.
Last August, after Pell’s first appeal was denied, Michael Sean Winters, at the National Catholic Reporter, expressed his concern for Cardinal Pell’s friends, comparing the hard truth they faced – the criminal conviction of Pell – to the hard reality faced by many of Theodore McCarrick’s friends and allies. ….