Cardinal George Pell, whose conviction on five counts of sexual abuse was overturned by Australia’s highest court, said in in his first television interview his knowledge that he was innocent and the prayers of thousands of people helped him during his 405 days in prison.
The cardinal spoke to Andrew Bolt of Sky News Australia on 11th April. The interview aired on 14th April, a week after the High Court of Australia unanimously said that in relation to all five charges, of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in 1996, “there is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted.”
Noting the Christian teaching that suffering has value, Cardinal Pell said, “You can get meaning out of the most terrible suffering.”
“You’ve never said, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'” Bolt asked.
“No, but I have said, ‘My God, my God, what are you up to?'” Cardinal Pell replied with a chuckle.
The interview was interspersed with commentary by Bolt, who criticised Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC; Victoria Police, “who charged Pell with a crime he could not possible have committed”; and the Victoria Court of Appeal.
“This is an extraordinary case when neither the alleged criminal nor the alleged victim could have been at the alleged crime,” Bolt said.
In December 2018, a jury found Cardinal Pell guilty on the five counts of abuse. The Victoria Court of Appeal upheld that verdict in a 2-1 decision, but the seven judges of the High Court overturned the ruling.
In the Sky News interview, Cardinal Pell said he had “no anger, no hostility toward my complainant.”
“Something might have happened by someone else in some other place and its transferred into this impossible scenario,” he said. He also said, “I wonder whether he was used.”
He noted that 30 or 40 years ago, the pendulum swung massively against anyone who said they had been attacked by a priest. Now, “we don’t want it to swing back so that every accusation is regarded as Gospel truth.”
Picture: Cardinal George Pell is pictured in a screen grab during an interview that aired on 14th April on Sky News Australia. (CNS screen grab).