1. George Pell could face a separate trial in the Vatican after losing his appeal yesterday.
George Pell could face a separate trial in the Vatican after the Catholic cardinal lost an appeal against his conviction for child sex offences.
When the disgraced religious leader was found guilty by a Melbourne court in December, the Vatican announced he would be subject to a canonical trial.
The Vatican claims the right to try any Catholic priest accused of crimes to ascertain the truth of the charges under Church laws.
In Vatican terms, such trials are not “secret” but “reserved”.
There were no reports on the Vatican’s canonical trial of former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick until the final announcement in 2018 that he had been found guilty of sexual abuse and stripped of the cardinalate.
The Vatican press office has not responded to questions on whether the preliminary stage of Pell’s canonical trial had begun.
A professor of canon law at a Roman pontifical university, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said such a trial would try to obtain all evidence from Melbourne and could seek more, a process which would take about a year.
Pope Francis has said he would wait until judicial proceedings regarding Pell had concluded before taking any action but it’s not known whether he intends to wait for a possible High Court appeal and canonical trial in Rome.
There are diverse opinions in Vatican circles. Some insist there should be canonical trials, partly to avoid states dictating to the Church.
Others say the Church should immediately accept the decision of courts of countries with a stable democracy.
Unlike some other cases, it is hard to find anyone in the Vatican – even among those who clashed with Pell – who believe the charges against him.
“It’s an awkward case for the Vatican because a lot of people would think a canonical trial is just a way of contrasting the civil trial, especially if it reaches a different verdict,” says Francis X Rocca, the Vatican correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.
“Another issue is that if there is a papal election before Pell turns 80 in two years time, will Pell be allowed to participate?”
Some Vatican officials criticised Pope Francis for choosing Pell to head the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy because of the sexual abuse allegations against him, even though the accusations were not made until after his Vatican appointment.
Francis has pushed through a global system of reporting and combating clerical sexual abuse but has been criticised for errors of judgment and lack of transparency on this issue.