Ex-Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo has reiterated his support for Cardinal George Pell on social media and has asserted that his belief in Pell’s innocence “is a matter of conscience. It is not based on blind faith.”
A former treasurer of the Catholic Church, Pell is the most senior official of the Church to be convicted of child sexual abuse. In June 2017, Pell was charged in Victoria, Australia, with multiple historical sexual assault offences; he denied all charges.
In Dec 2018, Pell was found guilty of five sexual abuse charges involving two boys in the 1990s. His bail was subsequently revoked and he was remanded. He is set to be sentenced this week.
Yeo first expressed support for Pell in a public Facebook post published earlier this week. Asserting that Pell’s “recent conviction and imprisonment filled me and many others with pain,” Yeo had written that he was praying “that Cardinal Pell will be acquitted in the appeal.”
In a subsequent interview with Mothership – a website that lists him as a contributor – Yeo repeated his belief that Pell “is innocent on the basis of what I know of the case and of the man,” and added that he is praying that “the Appeals Court will find in his favour.”
The former ruling party politician’s comments in support of Pell drew intense flak. Responding to the criticism in his latest Facebook post, published on Saturday (9 Mar), George Yeo wrote:
“I have been criticized by many readers for two FB posts on Cardinal Pell on Mar 6 at 10.18am and 11.20pm. Most of the criticisms are around two points. First, Cardinal Pell has already been found guilty. How can I continue to support him and believe that he is innocent? While he is appealing against his conviction, I should at most be praying that justice be done and not for his acquittal.
“Second, by supporting Pell after he has been convicted, I am doing injustice to his victims and to many victims of sexual abuse who fear coming out precisely because of the fear that they would be disbelieved.
“My belief in Cardinal Pell’s innocence is a matter of conscience. It is not based on blind faith. I have followed this case closely and, like many others, find it hard to believe that he could sneak out after Sunday Mass in a Cathedral to abuse two choirboys in the sacristy when so many parishioners would be lining up to shake his hand. Catholic churchgoers know that a bishop is still on parade after High Mass is over and cannot just disappear without many people looking for him.
“On Mar 6, I posted two articles which detailed how unbelievable the circumstances were. However, I accept that the jury by a unanimous decision convicted him. This jury did not see the complainant in person but only a recording of him from an earlier trial. A different jury in the earlier trial, which saw the complainant being cross-examined in person, voted to acquit Cardinal Pell 10 to 2. But as it was not unanimous, that earlier trial was considered a mistrial.
“I believe Cardinal Pell has good grounds for appeal and hope that his conviction would be overturned. But that is for the Appeal Judges to decide. Cardinal Pell has consistently and resolutely maintained his innocence. If his conviction stands after all arguments have been made and all appeal avenues have been exhausted, I will have to respect the judgement of the Australian judicial system.
“Some friends commented that, in supporting Cardinal Pell, I come across as being insensitive to the suffering of victims and their families. As a father, how can I not sympathize with their trauma which is often lifelong?
“As a Catholic, I share in the sense of shame and horror at the revelation in recent years of widespread abuse of minors in Church institutions. Pope Francis convened a special summit last month in the Vatican to battle this ‘enemy within’. This is a fight for the soul of the Church.”
Read his post in full here:
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