On 21st August, the Court of Appeal dismissed George Pell’s appeal against his convictions for the oral rape of a choirboy and the sexual assault of another at St Patrick’s Cathedral when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. A majority decision handed down by Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell upheld the jury decision reached in December last year in the County Court, when Pell was found guilty of five child sex offences. George Pell now has one avenue left to have his convictions overturned, by taking his case to the High Court.
The close proximity of the Government’s release of proposed new legislation aimed at strengthening the State’s child sexual offence laws with the decision made by the Court of Appeal in relation to Pell’s appeal again highlights emerging issues concerning the relationship between the Church and State. In particular, the tension in this relationship is brought to the fore in the Queensland Government’s proposal that the new failure to report offence will not exclude the reporting of abuse disclosed in the confessional. The testing of the relationship between Church and State was commented upon in this blog – The conviction of George Pell: the repercussions yet to be realised – produced by PeakCare soon after Pell was found guilty of his offences and has since then been further reported on within mainstream media, such as this article recently published by the Canberra Times.