Keith Windschuttle, Quadrant
The first of the two incidents that convicted Cardinal George Pell of sexual abuse of two choirboys supposedly took place after a Solemn Sunday Mass in St Patricks Cathedral, Melbourne, in December 1996. The choirboy who complained about Pell said he and a friend were abused in the priests’ sacristy of the cathedral shortly after they left the exit procession at the end of the Mass. The priests’ sacristy was the room in which then Archbishop Pell was assisted to robe before the Mass, and to disrobe afterwards. Concelebrating priests who took part in the Mass also robed and disrobed there. It was the room to which altar servers returned sacred objects used in the Mass. What remained of the sacramental wine was returned there, and the cash from the worshippers’ collection was deposited in its vault. It was out of bounds for choirboys. However, shortly after the procession, the choirboy and his friend allegedly found the sacristy unlocked and empty and went inside to swig the sacramental wine, when Pell suddenly appeared and assaulted them.
In my most recent piece for Quadrant Online, I showed that the submission by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions in answer to Pell’s pending appeal to the High Court contains an argument originally put to the jury by Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson at Pell’s trial, but which the trial judge ordered him to retract. The offending argument was that the priests’ sacristy was empty at the time the choirboys found it because altar servers from the exit procession, who had arrived at the sacristy a little earlier than the boys, had quickly left it and gone to the nearby utility room in order to provide a five-or-six-minute ‘interval of decorum’ or ‘private prayer time’ for worshippers still in the cathedral after the Mass.