Allegations Against Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell maintains his innocence on all allegations, including his conviction (overturned on final appeal). He was acquitted from the following charges: 5 counts of child molestation: 1 count of sexual penetration of a child under 16, and 4 counts of committing an indecent act with, or in the presence, of a child.[4] This conviction was overturned by the high court of Australia upon appeal: See the Wikipedia page and section on Cardinal George Pell’s Acquittal here.


“He stands publicly accused of complicity in a sex abuse coverup in the diocese of Ballarat in the 1970s and early 1980s; complicity in a sex abuse coverup in the archdiocese of Melbourne in the late 1980s and 1990s; and various counts of child molestation, assault, and indecent exposure, from 1961 through 1997.” [5]

“Then there is the allegation that Pell fondled a boy at a camp at Phillip Island in 1961.” [1]

In 2002, Pell “temporarily stands aside while a Church investigation looks into an allegation that he sexually abused a 12-year-old altar boy in 1961 while he was a seminarian.” [2]

“Scott alleged that Pell molested him ‘on any occasion that it was possible’ during the camp — in his tent, on nature walks, while they were swimming. He also alleged that Pell abused another camper, Michael Foley.” [3]

“One of the three men who have claimed Pell touched them improperly in Ballarat swimming pools in the 1970s intends to sue the cardinal for damages, and the other two are expected to give evidence in that case.” [1]

” ‘When we were in the deep end… Father Pell would let one hand go and I felt his other hand reach up and hold my crotch area,’ Lyndon Monument, one of his accusers, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The allegation was echoed by Damian Dignan and Michael Breen, who gave their accounts to ABC journalist Louise Milligan. Monument also alleged that Pell loitered in the boys’ changing rooms, an allegation repeated by another accuser, Les Tyack. Tyack claimed he saw Pell naked with three young boys for an extended period of time in a boys’ changing room in Torquay, a seaside town where Pell vacationed for many years.” [3]

“Father Pell lives with Gerard Ridsdale who was later convicted for sexual abuse in the 1960s-1980s. Pell has maintained he never knew of the abuse, which was a focus of questioning by Australia’s royal commission in 2016.” [2]

“Moreover, he [Pell] lived in the clergy house with Australia’s worst pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, who raped victims in that presbytery.” [3]
“Ridsdale pleaded guilty to 27 counts of child abuse” [3]

“Pell…lived and practiced in the St. Alipius presbytery…. the St. Alipius boys’ school had become overrun with child sexual abuse, perpetrated by a ring of Christian brothers and a pedophile priest. They were raping, beating, and abusing the schoolboys. Kids were violated in just about every corner of the school, including the principal’s office. In one fourth grade class, over a third of the boys went on to commit suicide.” [3]

“Years later, multiple victims testified that Pell knew about the abuse, both at St. Alipius and other parishes. He even sat on a committee that facilitated Ridsdale’s moving from parish to parish, allowing the priest to abuse countless more children while keeping the scandal under wraps.” [3]

More on Risdale and St. Alpius

1975 or 76
a Victorian man told police “that in 1975 or 1976, when he was 10, he slipped off Pell’s shoulders while playing in a lake near Swan Hill and made accidental contact with the priest’s erect penis. Pell was alleged to have told the boy: ‘Don’t worry, it’s only natural.’ ” [1]

“Pell is part of a committee that sends Ridsdale to his next parish of Edenhope.” [2]

“An ex-seminarian known as ‘Joe’ came forward [in 1996] alleging that Pell and several other priests had, 10 to 15 years earlier, been having sex with Mannix College trainee clerics at ‘parties … involving young men’.” [1]

“In 2016 Torquay resident Les Tyack went public with allegations he submitted to the royal commission and to the police that he saw Pell expose himself for many minutes to three boys at the local surf lifesaving club in the 1980s.” [1]

“July 2016 Victoria police announce allegation against Cardinal Pell that he exposed himself to a group of young boys at a surf club in the late 1980s.” [2]

that Pell molested two choir boys. Pell was convicted on five counts and sentenced to six years in prison. His appeal is pending.

Read the victim’s own account

that Pell refused to remove a priest, Fr. Peter Searson, “who wandered the Catholic school in military clothing, sometimes carried a gun, stabbed a bird with a screwdriver and tortured a cat.” Searson was also alleged to have sexually abused many children. A delegation from the school met with Pell, but he did nothing in response. [1]

“Bishop Pell accompanies Ridsdale to his first court appearance for child sex offences.” [2]

“John Paul II appoints Pell archbishop of Melbourne where he pioneers the Melbourne Response, which offers support and counselling to victims of sexual abuse but was criticized for placing limits on compensation payments.” [2]

“Victims reported their abuse to the church, who settled the matter privately outside of the courts…. ‘I haven’t been able to find a single survivor who had anything good to say about [the Melbourne Response],’ Milligan tells Rolling Stone. ‘The amounts of money that victims were given – $25,000 for a lifetime of pain – is atrocious.’ ” [3]

* Reliving the Melbourne Response – and Pell’s

“Helen Last, the counsellor hired by the Catholic Church in Melbourne to assist victims of clerical abuse…. developed suspicions about Pell very early during her work with the Archdiocese of Melbourne.” [1]

Helen Last: “I believe Pell set up the Melbourne Response partly to protect himself.” [1]

Helen Last: “It was alleged to me early that Pell was among a group of offenders from Ballarat to Melbourne. They were part of the Ballarat organised clerical offending, which extended down to Laverton and around Melbourne.” [1]

“Ms Last’s contract was terminated in May 1997 as a result, she claims, of her defying explicit instructions from archbishop Pell and then vicar-general Denis Hart to stay away from the Doveton parish, which suffered six paedophiles in succession as parish priest or assistant priest.” [1]

September 20, 2018
First trial: “A mistrial is declared after jurors were unable to reach a majority verdict. Some reports say the verdict was 10-2 in Pell’s favor, but this has not been fully proven.” [2]

December 11, 2018
Second trial: “The jury returns a unanimous verdict of guilty on all five charges of abusing the boys in St. Patrick’s Cathedral after less than four days of deliberation.” [2]

March 13, 2019
Cardinal Pell sentenced to six years in prison. [2]

June 2019
“The appeal hearing will take place in June.” [2]

August 2019
Cardinal George Pell loses appeal of sex abuse convictions

[1] Church knew Pell was at centre of decades-old lurid sex claims – by Barney Zwartz, (March 7, 2019)

[2] Cardinal George Pell: A Timeline – by Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register (Mar. 16, 2019)

[3] How Cardinal George Pell Became the Highest-Ranking Catholic Official to Be Convicted of Child Abuse by Nicholas Lord (Mar 17, 2019)

[4] Australian Broadcasting Corporation, (Updated February 26, 2019)



Reply to Objections about Pell’s Conviction

Objection: A task force was set up to look for crimes by Pell. They had no accusers, and were just looking for dirt on him.

Reply: That is a half-truth. The task force began in 2013; they knew of past complaints, so they had some accusers. But they also looked to see if there might be other victims. This is justified because there was a history of complaints stretching from 1961, when he was a seminarian, all the way through his career, even when he was Archbishop. There were many complaints against Pell, so the task force was right to see if there were any more victims.

Abuse victims usually do not come forward. It is not true that they looked without any complaints; only that they looked for additional complaints. This is analogous to the situation where a stepfather is accused of abusing one of his four children, and so they ask the other three kids if they were abused.

Objection: The Archbishop would never be alone, so he could not have abused the kids. He was always in front of the Church.

Reply: Priests and Bishops say very many Masses in their careers. They do not act the same at every Mass. I know from attending Mass that it is always possible to speak to a priest, before or after Mass, and he will step aside from what he is doing for a private conversation, to answer a question or whatever. It is not true that Pell couldn’t possibly step away to the sacristy.

A priest stepping away from a crowd to enter the sacristy would not have raised any suspicions; it would not have been unusual or even memorable. Many years later, other persons could not be expected to remember him stepping away for a moment.

Objection: One of the victims recanted before his death.

Reply: Victims of abuse often are very reluctant to come forward. Before making a disclosure, a victim might deny the abuse many times. And it is not uncommon for an abuse victim to change his mind and withdraw an accusation. It is a difficult disclosure to make; it is humiliating. And in accusing a well-liked priest or bishop, a victim would have to endure much harassment. So the recanting of the other victim is not surprising, and does not prove innocence.

Objection: Pell was wearing his full vestments, so he could not have exposed his private parts for the alleged abuse.

Reply: What a ridiculous claim. He’s not an astronaut who can’t get out of his spacesuit! How do you think priests and Bishops go to the bathroom? He’s not wearing a onesie. Or a chastity belt. He lifted up his robes, dropped his pants, and committed the offense.

Objection: There was no corroboration.

Reply: This is not the case of one accuser. Pell has had accusers against him from the time he was a seminarian, working at a summer camp with kids, through his career as a priest and Bishop. This set of many accusers, and many alleged offenses, shows a pattern of behavior, the same type of behavior by Pell, as described by many different victims. The pattern of abuse corroborates the accusation.

Objection: Pell is hated by liberals because he is a top conservative Catholic leader. He made a lot of enemies. That is why he was falsely accused.

Reply: The accusations are not false; I can tell by the description of the abuse. It is just like dozens of other disclosures of abuse I’ve heard. Someone who hates Pell, wouldn’t be able to make a false accusation sound true. In addition, there’s no evidence that the accuser had hatred against Pell because of Pell’s views on various issues. And there are many accusers across many years of Pell’s career.

Objection: — The “I know Cardinal Pell” objection.

Reply: Yeah, I’ve heard this from family members of abusers. They’ve known someone for a long time, a spouse or boyfriend or brother or father. And he turns out to be an abuser. That’s the way child abuse works. The abuser hides the crime. And most of these persons who say they know Pell, don’t know him as well as a close relative knows someone. They don’t know his sins.

My Objections: Why are people defending a convicted child abuser? It’s because he’s conservative. Pell was a hero to conservative Catholics for standing up against liberalism. They don’t want to admit he is a monster. Just like the liberal former-Cardinal McCarrick.

It’s easy to find excuses for abusers. I used to see this all the time in family members. They can’t believe that their loved one is a child abuser. But that is how child abuse works, almost all the time. The abuser hides behind a mask of normalcy…or holiness. He might be a conservative priest or bishop, who truly believes in what conservative Catholicism teaches. But he sins. That is how abuse works; that is how sin works.

The implicit idea is that Pell can’t be an abuser, because he is conservative. But recall that the founder of the Legion of Christ, Marcial Maciel, was a conservative Catholic leader, and yet a child abuser. And notice that both Maciel and Pell are not gay; they are straight. Maciel had sexual relationships with two different women, and had children by them.

Conservatives are not immune to grave sins. In one of his interviews, Pell states that the accusations are in effect saying that he acted contrary to all that he believes and holds dear in the Catholic faith. Yes, that sums it up nicely.

Remember all those questions people asked about McCarrick? How could he have risen to power? How could he have retained power for so long? How could it take so long to remove him? Some of those same people are now defending Pell. Yeah, that’s how. They’re the answer to their own questions.

So this is why the Church’s abuse crisis is so hard to solve. Child abusers are good at hiding. That’s what makes them abusers. They have a double life, and people are fooled by the mask they wear.

Are the laity the solution to the Church’s abuse crisis? Look at the Pell case. He’s a convicted child abuser, and many prominent laypersons defend him. This is what will happen if abuse cases are handled by a committee of lay persons. The more popular abusers will be set free.

Why I’m convinced Pell is guilty

1. I know what real disclosures of sexual abuse sound like. All the accusations of abuse against Pell have the ring of truth. The descriptions are just like many other descriptions by other victims. These are not invented accusations.

2. The behaviors described are exactly the way that abusers act. The behaviors accusers describe in Pell fit the behavior patterns of child abusers.

3. There are many accusers, who do not know each other.

4. The accusations are spread over many decades. They did not arise at one point in time.

5. The accusations from different persons at different times match in that they describe the same type of behavior.

6. When memories are decades old, no one gets all the details right, neither the victim, nor person who testified on behalf of the accused. So it is not a valid argument to say that the details from the victim don’t match what other witnesses remembered.

7. Would an abuser really abuse two boys right in the sacristy, just after Mass? Yes. Pell abused children for many decades, successfully, without being caught. And eventually, he became so brazen, that he would grab a couple of boys who were stealing Communion wine and sexually abuse them in the sacristy of a Church. Yes, abusers act on the spur of the moment, to take advantage of victims. Abusers look for opportunities when they are alone with kids, and then they step into a familiar behavior pattern. It’s like a thief who sees an opportunity to steal a valuable, and then he doesn’t think twice.

There will likely be more court cases. More victims will come forward in court. The other victims have already spoken to the press. Pell will not be able to hide behind his mask of holiness anymore. With one conviction, the subsequent convictions will be easier.

What George Pell did to children over the course of many decades is unconscionable. And to abuse kids after Mass, in the sacristy, is a grave sacrilege as well as the crime of child abuse.

In addition, when an ordained person commits a grave sexual sin, it is always a sacrilege as well. The ordained person is consecrated to God, so the abuse is an offense against something consecrated to God. And as Pell was promoted through the ranks, his crimes of abuse became ever more sinful. It is worse for these sins to be committed by a Cardinal or a Bishop than a priest, worse by a priest than a deacon, etc.

“all sins of impurity committed by those especially consecrated to God (whether alone or with others) are sacrilege.” Haring, Law of Christ III: 301.

I don’t know if Pell ever repented and stopped abusing children. Well, he has stopped now that he is in prison. But even if he at some point repented, and confessed, and was forgiven by God, he is nevertheless guilty of an actual mortal sin of omission for not publicly admitting his sins and making reparation for the harm that he did.

Addendum (3/20/19)

Dominican friar Peter Murnane wrote wrote a post, To Those Who Think George Pell’s Verdict Was Wrong, quoted at length below:

“I attended eight days of his trial, and have no difficulty respecting the jury’s verdict of guilty. Those who still claim his innocence say that he was condemned by only one witness who claims that Pell raped him when he was 13 years old. There were actually two boys, on choir scholarships which paid their school fees at St Kevins. They loved going to choir… but suddenly stopped loving it, and wanted to quit. They did not tell their parents why. Most victims don’t tell, at least for many years afterwards. If it took them a year to leave the choir, it was because they could not reveal the reason. To leave would mean that they would lose the choir scholarships, and there families would not be able to afford school fees. But the boys did leave, and by about 16 years of age both were taking heroin. One eventually died of an overdose.

“If you doubt his story, I suggest that you read the book by Louise Milligan, who listened to him at length. I have met Louise Milligan and she impresses me as a truthful woman, not at all sensationalist. She assures me that the young man is also genuine and truthful. Richter QC brought out small inconsistencies in his story, but do we expect a traumatised thirteen-year-old to have perfect recall after 22 years?”

Pell’s supporters claim that the crime could not have been committed in the cathedral sacristy after high Mass because there were too many people around. We heard from many witnesses: two choir masters, the organist, sacristan, master of ceremonies and former choir boys. But they all had to speak in probabilities: ‘people were coming and going; people had jobs to do; the archbishop always followed this routine’. But they could not rule out exceptions. No one could swear to seeing the archbishop all the time. After every Mass, in the cathedral as in any church, people eventually drift away. There are moments of quiet. The sacristy is empty. No one noticed two choir boys missing from their places, but that doesn’t mean that they never went missing to trespass naughtily in the room where, it is claimed, Pell found them pinching the altar wine.

“Please forgive me this distasteful detail: those who think Pell is innocent make much of this argument. I was astonished that Richter spent so much time trying to prove that a bishop dressed in a full length cassock with an alb over it could not possibly expose himself for the purpose of rape. It is a stupid argument. In my 53 years as a priest, if I wish to answer a call of nature when vested for Mass, it is a simple matter to lift the hem of the multiple garments or vestments I am wearing. End of story. It is astonishing that Fr Brennan is still spreading this foolish argument.”

“And how has Pell treated those complaining of sexual abuse. Chrissy and Anthony Foster’s two little daughters were raped by their Oakleigh parish priest. If you read the Fosters’ excellent book you will be saddened to see that Archbishop Pell treated them abominably. So too was John Ellis, the Sydney abuse survivor whom Pell almost destroyed by legal trickery, which has now been reversed. During the Royal Commission I watched Cardinal Pell give evidence by video link from Rome. Like the Commissioners themselves, I could not believe him when he claimed not to know about several cases of abuse. He and his supporters boast of his Melbourne Response to abuse. But it is a plan designed to limit compensation and tended to gag those who accepted its small payouts. It was not a wonderful, original initiative, but was launched in haste before the other Australian bishops could finish their combined plan.”

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
* My books of theology
* My translation of the Bible