Today’s Cardinal Pell’s High Court Decision: Possible Outcomes

Australia’s top court will announce its findings at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Monday.

Cardinal Pell offers Mass April 1, 2016, at the Pontifical Parish of St. Anne at the Vatican.
Cardinal Pell offers Mass April 1, 2016, at the Pontifical Parish of St. Anne at the Vatican. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

Australia’s High Court will deliver its decision later today on whether to overturn the conviction of Cardinal George Pell.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel is set to hand down the High Court’s judgment at 10 a.m. on Tuesday local time in Australia (8 p.m. Eastern time on Monday), potentially concluding a five-year legal ordeal that could exonerate the former prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy of abusing two teenaged choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick cathedral in the 1990s.

The court’s decision is expected to be given swiftly, with the court tweeting its judgement at the High Court registry in Brisbane before publishing its decision online.

Hardly anyone is expected to be in the court to hear the verdict as judges, journalists, opponents and supporters who have attended the hearings to date are staying in their own localities due to the coronavirus.

Cardinal Pell, who has served one year of a six-year sentence, will remain as the verdict is announced in Barwon Prison near Melbourne, where he was relocated in December. He has always vigorously denied all the charges.

On March 12, the High Court decided to defer ruling on a “special leave to appeal.” A seven-member panel of justices said they needed more time to consider whether to allow the appeal which was the cardinal’s last chance to clear his name.

But the quick turnaround in issuing a judgement (it will be taking place in less than a month since the High Court decision) has prompted speculation that the court will overturn Cardinal Pell’s conviction.

The scenarios possible are that Cardinal Pell’s special leave to appeal is rejected and he remains in prison to serve his sentence; his special appeal is granted and the appeal is allowed overturning the guilty verdict, resulting in his immediate release; or special leave to appeal is granted and the appeal is remitted back to the previous appeal court in the state of Victoria (where Cardinal Pell lost by 2-1 last August) to be reexamined by three new appellate judges.

The cardinal’s counsel, who have had their expectations raised in the past only to be disappointed, are refusing to be too optimistic until the final decision is announced.

Once the final Australian legal decision is made, attention will then turn to canonical courts and how they will deal with the case.

Cardinal George Pell at the annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021.

Cardinal Pell Leads Eucharistic Procession in Rome

Marking the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, The event began with a reflection by the 79-year-old Australian cardinal at the Angelicum’s Church of Sts. Dominic and Sixtus, one of Rome’s titular churches assigned to cardinals.

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta.

Argentine Bishop Zanchetta Ends Vatican Job at APSA

Bishop Zanchetta, the 57-year-old former bishop of Orán, Argentina, has been accused of “aggravated continuous sexual abuse” of two adult-aged seminarians, as well as fraud and mismanagement of funds. He denies the charges.