Conversations with Consequences
Ep. 19 - What you need to know about the Cardinal Pell case, with Phil Lawler

The abuse crisis has rocked the Church. Should we assume that any priest accused is guilty? The conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell should give any Catholic and defender of the rule of law pause. An incredible allegation of abuse formed the basis of Pell’s conviction and his accuser’s perceived credibility was recently cited in dismissing his appeal. What about the overwhelming evidence of the improbability— and perhaps even impossibility— of the abuse even occurring? Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, joins TCA’s Dr. Grazie Christie and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer for a lively discussion of the case crafted against Cardinal Pell, the basis for his appeal to Australia’s highest court and what this means for the Church.

Helpful articles:…reason-for-hope

Ep. 19 – What you need to know about the Cardinal Pell case, with Phil Lawler Transcript

Dr. Grazie Christie: Welcome back, friends. To my listeners, if you’re listening on the radio, you’re listening at 11:00 a.m. on Fridays on the Guadalupe Radio Network, and if not you’re listening for free or where you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and tell your friends about us. We’re at
So today we are revisiting the case of Australian Cardinal Pell. Last week, his conviction for sex abuse allegedly committed in the 90’s was upheld by an appellate court. You may recall that we spoke to an old friend of his, someone who knows him very well, George Weigel, a few weeks ago. He went a long way in convincing Andrea and I and I’m sure a lot of our listeners, as to the implausibility, what’s been alleged against him. A terrible crime, but implausible one,

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer: Grazie, there have been very few people who have written and they’ve written really well and very profound. Mr. Weigel’s been one of them. Another person that’s been one of them is one of our guests that’s going to come on and I think it’s really important for all people of goodwill and especially for Catholics to study this case, to know the facts and not to jump to the conclusions that there is support behind this conviction.

Grazie: Well, and at the same time, Catholics, people in general are rightfully horrified by what has happened over and over and over again. There has been terrible sexual abuse by clerics, cover-ups by bishops, but this doesn’t negate the fact that every case is an individual case. Every life is individual and should be approached very carefully, especially when we’re talking about somebody’s entire life and reputation.

Andrea: Absolutely.

Grazie: Our first guest is joining us by phone and he is Phil Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, which is the first English language news service on the internet. He attended Harvard and did graduate work at the University of Chicago. He previously served as the director of studies for the Heritage Foundation, the editor of Crisis magazine. It goes on and on.
Welcome, Mr. Lawler, to our show.

Phil Lawler: Thank you for having me.

Andrea: Well, Mr. Lawler, we are both so thrilled that you took the time out of your schedule to come and speak with us. You have been one of the most cogent writers, in my opinion, writing about the case and I thought it might be helpful to start off our conversation, just giving our listeners, especially if they’re not familiar with the details, a little overview kind of fly over about the allegations against Cardinal Pell and where we are in the process. What’s the procedural posture of the case against him? Then we can kind of go from there. If that’s helpful, it would be really good for us.

Phil: Sure. With the caveat that I’m no expert on the Australian legal system.

Andrea: The Australian courts aren’t an either, apparently.

Phil: That would seem to be the case. Well, Cardinal Pell is, as you said earlier, is accused of having molested two boys. They were boys at the time. They’re grown now. Back in the 90s when he was archbishop of Melbourne. There are two boys involved. One of them is now deceased who had said no such thing happened to him.
So there’s one accuser and that accuser is the only prosecution witness in this case, the only witness presenting any testimony against Cardinal Pell. He says that Cardinal Pell molested him in the sacristy of the cathedral in Melbourne twice after mass.
On one of those occasions that cathedral in Melbourne wasn’t open. It was closed for renovations. So that has to be dismissed and that has to reflect a bit on the credibility of the witness, you would think.
I won’t go into everything now. I can give you more details as we go along, but there are more than twenty witnesses who came forward to say not only that this didn’t happen, but that it was literally physically impossible for the cardinal to have been alone with a boy in that sacristy at that time.
So you have this overwhelming evidence that it couldn’t have happened and the only evidence that it did happen is the testimony of one witness who said nothing about it for years and years and came forward only after the police began looking for complaints against the cardinal.

Grazie: And isn’t it true, sorry to interrupt, Mr. Lawler, but isn’t it true that Cardinal Pell has no other accusations against him in a very long and active career in the church?

Phil: That’s true and that’s really something I have been pursuing stories about sexual abuse in the church for twenty-five years now and I’ve seen a lot of ugliness and I have been disappointed a lot of times with clerics who I thought were innocent. After studying, I realized they were guilty.
In most of those cases, you find evidence that there’s not just one victim. There are multiple victims. For a man to do something as brazen as what the cardinal is said to have done, to essentially rape a boy in a public room with a door open, anybody can come in at any time, the only person I could imagine doing that is a repeat offender.

Grazie: Someone who had practice and who is brazen that way?

Phil: You have to be pretty far down in the sewers of child abuse. I just can’t imagine that that would be a one-time offense, would be something as grosses this.

Andrea: Mr. Lawler, I was kind of doing a comparing contrast of that case against Cardinal Pell and the facts that we have been subjected to about this sordid situation of Mr. McCarrick. I was wondering, these two allegations are strikingly similar, right? The allegations against Cardinal Pell in the cathedral in Melbourne and one of the first to come forward regarding altar boy in St Patrick’s, and curiously, both are called St Patrick’s, right?
I was wondering, they shock the conscience, both of them, and why should we believe that the two are different? Why should we believe that one is true and one is false? Maybe you could explain and give us a little bit of a texture to why we should see the difference between the two allegations.

Phil: The difference lies with the witnesses. As I say in this case, involving Cardinal Pell, There is a grand total of one witness and that’s the accuser. In all of these cases, it’s usually a case of “he said, she said”. There’s the accuser and the accused and nobody else is an eyewitness. There’s no videotape.
In the case of McCarrick. There were multiple, multiple reports. In the case of Pell, there’s just the one. In the case of McCarrick, there was a whispering campaign. It was common knowledge. I knew about it almost 20 years ago by hearsay. I had no evidence but I had heard about it because people in Washington talked about it and seminarians talked about it in Newark.
It was not an isolated case. That’s the whole point with McCarrick, is that it was an ongoing scandal over a period of years and a lot of people know about it. It’s really a black mark on a lot of people that they failed to take any action when they heard about it.

Grazie: Mr. Lawler, the case of Cardinal Pell, you allege, in a great article you wrote in the, “The Pell Case: Australia’s Dreyfus Affair” or Dreyfus. I’m not sure how you pronounce it, but you allege that this is a black mark against Australia, much in the way that French Affair of Alfred Dreyfus. Can you explain?

Phil: Yes. In the Dreyfus affair, which was I think from 1896 to 1904, there was a French military officer who was convicted of treason. He was innocent. He was set up. He was framed. Eventually, the facts came out that someone had betrayed French interests, French military secrets and Dreyfus was a convenient target because he was a Jew.
So the case against him played into some anti-Semitic prejudices. He was, I guess, an unsympathetic character to a lot of people. A lot of people wanted very badly for him to be guilty and when military leaders came up with evidence showing that Dreyfus was not the culprit, that someone else whose name I forgotten had betrayed the secrets, they covered up that evidence because they were so anxious first, to have that convenient victim, a Jew who did not excite public sympathy and a member of a minority, and second, if they admitted that Dreyfus, who is innocent, a whole lot of powerful people were going to look bad because they’ve been screaming for his scalp.

Grazie: For so long.

Phil: I think that is what’s happening in Australia. In Australia there is a huge public outrage about sexual abuse and it’s justified and they’re looking for a victim. Cardinal Pell is the most prominent Catholic, you know, in Australia and he’s a very convenient victim. He’s not popular. So at this point, to admit that he was tried and that the prosecution went after him aggressively, that he was tried and found guilty wrongly, that would be an indictment of the Australian judicial system. I think that’s the unfortunate reality that weighs against his appeal now.

Grazie: You mention in your article that it might be because Cardinal Pell is unapologetically orthodox, or “conservative” you say in quotation marks. Do you think that that’s driving some of this animus against Cardinal Pell?

Phil: I’m sure it is, because he was very unpopular. He was unpopular within the Church because this is a liberal church in Australia primarily. He came into Melbourne. He made changes. He shook people up. He rattled cages. He made enemies. He cleaned out the faculty of the seminary and a lot of priests were unhappy with him. That unhappiness was conveyed through the media.
He is, by nature, not the sort of man who avoids conflicts. I mean, he was he was an outstanding football player. He’s a big, strong man. He’s aggressive. He’s unapologetic.
There was a tremendous animus against him. It’s also instructive to note that the police in Melbourne have disclosed that they started looking for evidence against Cardinal Pell before they had a complaint. Now, that’s an indication of the very strange sort of prosecution propaganda.

Grazie: It doesn’t seem the way things normally go, does it?

Phil: No.

Grazie: Look for the crime before you have evidence.

Phil: That shows that he was a target.

Grazie: Mm hm.

Phil: There are plenty of reasons why he might have been a target. I mean, I don’t want to go too far into conspiracy theories, but he was a target.

Grazie: Let me remind our listeners that we’re talking to Phil Lawler from about the sad case of Cardinal Pell. Go ahead, Andrea.

Andrea: Mr. Lawler, this is Andrea and I am a lawyer, although I did civil work in the U.S. and I’m not an incredible expert, but I’ve done some looking into the difference between our two systems.
As an American, especially in the last few decades, we’re very, very focused and aware of the protections that we have in place for criminal defendants, right? They’re built in place to support the notion that you’re innocent until proven guilty. There’s still an ethic, although I think it’s waning, and I hope that we can speak a little bit more about that in the second segment but an ethic in the U.S. that our criminal justice system is there to pursue the truth and to not convict the innocent.
What I found, which was interesting, is Australia is slightly different in the deference given to the government, to the state, to the prosecution. I was struck by that in light of how what seems to be they just keep beating a dead horse.
Maybe you could speak a little bit about the first hung jury trial and the second trial that resulted in a conviction and why that is probative of this being a kind of unstable conviction.

Phil: Sure. One thing I do know about the Australian system is that their standard for conviction is the same as ours that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. In this case, it’s just impossible to say that it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
You might begin to make the case that the defense hadn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the cardinal was innocent, because that could be the slightest flicker of a possibility that the charges are true, but it’s not the defense that bears the burden of responsibility.
The burden of proof, it’s the prosecution and they didn’t fulfill it. He went to trial. The first trial resulted in a hung jury. The report is that the jury voted 10 to 2 for acquittal and then the prosecution chose to take the case to trial again, a second time. On the second occasion, they got a conviction.
Now if that conviction was on a 12 to nothing vote, then we have over two trials, a vote of what is it, 22? What am I getting?

Grazie: 18?

Andrea: 12 to 10.

Phil: 12 to 10.

Andrea: Mental math is very difficult, it’s okay.

Phil: Thank you. It’s Friday. 12 to 10, which is not overwhelming.

Andrea: Yes.

Phil: That’s not a vote. Then it was interesting to me, he went to an appeals court and I didn’t realize the appeals court was a panel of three judges. Just three. There the vote was 2 to 1. So, I mean, there are no riots here.
When the case is presented, even at the appeals level, where I assume that the court leans toward the jury’s verdict regarding the fact that even at that level, there was a very cogent dissent.

Grazie: You bring up, Mr. Lawler, you bring up the dissent at the appeal level, and isn’t it true that there were, as you mentioned, three judges and one dissented and that dissenting judge wrote a very interesting, very long explanation of why exactly he felt that the taint that the prosecution hadn’t proved its case. He didn’t come out so far as to say that he believed that the cardinal is innocent, but I think he gave a lot of great reasons for why the prosecution hadn’t done its job in proving that Cardinal Pell was guilty beyond all doubt.

Phil: That’s right. I think his focus was on now at the appeals level. The majority in the appeals court was saying it was not unreasonable for the jury in the trial to believe the accuser. I think that the dissenting judge, the thrust of his argument was that it’s not unreasonable to accept the accuser’s testimony, but it has to be weighed against the other testimony. It’s not the accuser is the trump hand, he’s one witness.
When you weigh it against a very substantial mountain of testimony saying that it doesn’t hold water, then it doesn’t hold water. I think that was the thrust of his argument. That’s how I read it.

Andrea: There’s a very interesting article that I think you’d cited in some of your work. It’s written by a Notre Dame law professor, Gerard Bradley, and it’s in the Catholic Register. Professor Bradley is just an incredible, smart, bright, faithful Catholic and he comes from the perspective of a criminal prosecutor and highlights some of the legal problems that give some sort of hope, I guess, and optimism that even at the next go around to the Australian highest court, there can be a chance to revisit how much weight was given to the complainant, the accuser.
I think you touched upon this, Mr. Lawler, that credibility really needs to be assessed in light of everything. It isn’t just when someone takes the stand in that moment, but it’s after taking into account all of the questions and all of the problems that have been raised by the defense.
The challenge and the real sad thing and travesty that I see in just reviewing things is that it looks like the burden was put on the defense as opposed to the burden being put on the prosecution. That takes our understanding of justice and criminal prosecution and turns it on its head.

Phil: That’s exactly right. That’s why, as I say, I think the fundamental problem here is that Cardinal Pell has been a target since the beginning of this whole case so it wasn’t the usual case where if you’re accused of robbing the bank, the prosecution has to prove that you robbed the bank. You don’t have to prove that you didn’t.

Grazie: That’s right.

Phil: In this case, there’s such a clamor. Put him in jail, he robbed the bank, that the ordinarily burden on the prosecution was, within a sense, waived.

Andrea: Grazie and I are both moms.

Grazie: Of sons.

Andrea: Of sons and daughters and we’re fierce moms and would do anything to protect our children and other people’s children. So our instincts first whenever you hear about abuse, is one of protection, but at the same time, we don’t want to diminish at all, and I don’t think anyone on this call or any of our listeners want to diminish the real need to keep our children safe.

Grazie: Absolutely.

Andrea: That’s something that whenever we question this, and I’ve had Twitter conversations with victims, and I think defending Cardinal Pell in no way diminishes our horror for what victims have suffered. I think that that’s worth really putting out there. This is not a defense and ignoring the true suffering of people who have suffered abuse, but at the same time, their interests aren’t served by throwing an innocent man in jail.

Phil: I absolutely agree with you. Just to underline that, I’m also a dad. I have children. I have grandchildren. I’m also a journalist who has, as I said earlier, spent twenty-five years on this. My record will show I have been very, very rough on bishops who cover up abuse, bishops who commit abuse. I have been calling for mass resignations. I believe a whole lot of bishops should be in jail because of their complicity in this.
It’s not as if I’m soft on this issue.

Andrea: Yes.

Phil: It’s just in this case, if you want to criticize Cardinal Pell for not responding when he heard complaints of abuse by priests under his jurisdiction, I’ll listen to you.
In fact, he said himself that he made mistakes and he has regrets about how he handled complaints, but this is a complaint about him and that complaint should be governed by the facts. It doesn’t matter whether you like him or not. It doesn’t matter whether he was a good bishop or not. It doesn’t matter whether he’s a friendly guy or not. It matters whether he’s innocent or guilty.

Grazie: It doesn’t matter how much pathos the accuser brings to the testifying, right? How much pathos and how much drama and how much he can convey to the jury how he feels. This is to me how it sounds.

Phil: This is one of the difficulties in a lot of these cases, that people who have been abused are damaged. They’re psychologically damaged by the abuse, and a lot of times what that means is they’re not particularly good witnesses. That’s a problem that prosecutors often have. These are people who have led troubled lives. They might be emotional. They might be overdramatic.
Then you have other problems, particularly if you’re dealing with something that occurred years ago, that they might have faulty memories. So there are all sorts of problems with the prosecution and to say that this particular witness in the Pell case doesn’t hold up, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a liar. It may be that he has other problems, whether they’re memory problems, whether they’re fantasy problems. We don’t know music.

Grazie: That music is a sign that we have to go to break but we’ll be right back to talk to Phil Lawler about the sad case of Australia’s Cardinal Pell.
Welcome back, friends. This is your hostess or host at the Catholic Association’s Conversations with Consequences. If you’re listening on the radio, you’re listening to the Guadalupe Radio Network on 11:00 a.m. on Fridays. If you are listening, not on the radio, you’re listening to our podcast, you can download our podcasts or subscribe to them at
You can tell your friends about us and on our podcast page, we have lots of great bonus episodes. We try to keep on top of the news because of the Catholic Association, we are a group of lay Catholics, lay women who are trying to be a force for everything good that’s Catholic and enliven our culture, make our culture better and more beautiful and more noble and we’d love for you to join us at the Catholic Association.
I’m joined by my good friend and co-hostess or co-host, Andrea. Is that not said anymore? I’m not supposed to use the word hostess, right?

Andrea: I actually feel like one of those Hostess cupcakes like you’re one.

Grazie: They keep changing the language on me.

Andrea: Ding-dong.

Grazie: I feel like I just learned English and now I have to relearn it. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is the legal eagle of the Catholic Association and she’s in D.C. and I’m in Miami in my closet.
I’m very happy we have electricity. We probably won’t for much longer. There’s a hurricane barreling our way. Our wonderful guest, Mr. Phil Lawler, is on the phone.
Welcome back, Mr. Lawler.

Phil: Thanks for having me again.

Grazie: We’re talking about the sad case of Cardinal Pell and we were sort out delving a little deeply there into the law and what makes a credible witness and how that’s going for Cardinal Pell.

Andrea: Perhaps maybe we can kind of move forward and talk a little bit about the appellate process, the recent appellate decision that was handed down last week and what’s next for Cardinal Pell in Australia.
Mr. Lawler, maybe you could kind of get all of our listeners up to speed on what happened last week and where things are headed.

Phil: Well, after his conviction on sex abuse charges, Cardinal Pell appealed. The appeals court announced its decision this past week and denied his appeal. So as of now, he faces several years in jail. He is appealing to Australia’s highest court, the equivalent of our Supreme Court.
I don’t know, I’m afraid I don’t know, when that would be heard. That’s where the case stands now.

Grazie: At the end of the last segment, Mr. Lawler, you were you were very emphatic about all the work you’ve done, this terrible scourge of sexual abuse in the Church and how you’ve never pulled any punches, and you’ve called for mass resignations, and you’ve been very vocal about the responsibility of higher church prelates, right? The church, the prelates of the church, their responsibility that they bear in this matter of not having had their finger on the pulse of things and even worse, covering up, moving priests around.
I just wanted to bring that up again for our listeners, because I think it’s important when we talk about defending Cardinal Pell as a very possibly innocent victim of a witch hunt that all of us also acknowledge, people like you, who are maintaining Cardinal Pell’s possible innocence that you’re coming from the position of being completely intolerant.

Phil: I appreciate that. This is a witch hunt but in this case, there are witches.

Grazie: Yes.

Andrea: Absolutely.

Phil: Cardinal Pell, I don’t think he’s one of them and in any case, this this particular incident, I’m fully convinced he’s innocent.

Andrea: You know, Mr. Lawler, I feel like sometimes in this situation I am wearing two hats. One is as a faithful Catholic and another is as a member of the bar and really committed to the rule of law and defending our system of justice and the importance of having the rule of law in our other brother and sister countries.
I lived out of the country where there was incredible corruption in South America and you could really see the suspicion that people had of their government and of the judicial system because of that corruption.
This case is a challenge because Australia isn’t a rogue nation in our minds. It shouldn’t be, but it’s starting to look like it’s gone off the rails both in the investigation of Cardinal Pell and in the process of this case.
Perhaps you could shed some light on what is think the significance of a country like Australia losing its marbles in the prosecution of someone without having foundation, continuing to go forward, and what that does for the stability of the rule of law in their country.

Phil: It’s devastating. It’s really terribly dismaying to me. I’ve never been to Australia. I’m an American but we do share the Anglo-American system of law.

Grazie: We do.

Phil: This just looks like a pretty clear violation, and that’s why the Dreyfus affair occurred to me as a historic comparison because there you have a country in France which does not have the same legal systems that we have but you still you think of it as an advanced country, not as a corrupt country.
There, an innocent man was railroaded and the government persisted in railroading him and covering up the evidence that would have exonerated him. It was the same sort of situation where the whole resources of the government were used to prosecute an innocent man and then to maintain his prosecution.
I mean, eventually it fell apart, eventually he was exonerated and given back his commission, but after just a horrendous episode for the whole country that it helped to tear France apart.
I think Australia could be looking at the same sort of situation, which is what really worries me about Cardinal Pell’s appeal, because as I say, if the Supreme Court says he’s innocent, then what does that tell you about the prosecutors who went after him so vigorously about the two trials that he underwent and about the appeals court?

Andrea: And the confidence that Australia can have in-jury verdicts.

Phil: Right because his appeal, as I understand it, the grounds for his appeal is that the verdict is unreasonable. So you’re saying that the courts have reached and an appeals court has affirmed an unreasonable verdict. That’s very destabilizing and demoralizing if you are relying on your nation to give you the protection of law.

Grazie: You mentioned that in France, after the Dreyfus affair, there was a lot of unrest that lasted for many years and had far reaching complex complications and consequences because of the lack of confidence that people felt in rule of law. I was thinking that all of us looking over at Australia are starting to think that this kind of thing could happen here, because there appears to be a growing tendency to believe that anyone who brings an accusation of sexual abuse has to be believed.
We are seeing this here sort of on a social level. I don’t think you’ve seen it on a legal level, as in the case of Cardinal Pell, but we’re definitely seeing on the social level that people, their lives can be wrecked. Their financial, social, their jobs, everything can be taken away from them because of one accusation of sexual abuse.

Phil: Yes and we’ve also seen the beginnings of some cracks in the foundation of the American people’s confidence in the rule of law. Actually, one very significant case that all your listeners will be aware of is the Jeffrey Epstein case.

Grazie: That’s right.

Phil: Which Of course, again, involves sexual abuse and an awful lot of people question whether he killed himself. There’s an awful lot of skepticism, there’s a sense of who is covering up evidence of what, and you ask yourself, who would you trust to conduct the investigation into this whole mess at this point? Because it starts to reflect badly on the prosecutors, on the Justice Department and on everybody. It starts to erode the confidence that people feel and should feel in the justice under law.

Andrea: Mr. Lawler, I was wondering if we could kind of pull back out of the criminal prosecution in Australia in this case and really think and speak a little bit about the implications for the Church.
My one really great sadness in all of this is while Cardinal Pell has been incarcerated, he’s been forbidden from celebrating the Mass and that is a grave injury to the Church. In my opinion, and really causes harm to the body of Christ.
I was wondering if perhaps, especially given your experience and your background, looking at abuse by members of the clergy, what does this case do for advancing the effort to root out the rot in the Church. Is it going to be ignored? Is it undermining our ability to clean house? What does it do for the moral authority of the church, in your opinion?

Phil: I think that, while there are several different ways to look at it, from what I’ve heard, I don’t know the man personally, but I know friends of Cardinal Pell who tell me that he is bearing up extraordinarily well, that he is he’s serene and prayerful, and he believes that he’s suffering for the Church and he’s offering up that suffering.
If that’s the case, there’s no doubt in my mind that spiritual benefits are being won particularly by him and all of us who are praying for him. All of us who are praying for him are doing some good as well.
On a natural level, I don’t see that it’s going to help. I’m afraid that, you know, we spoke earlier about a witch hunt, and I think, you dance around and saying that the witch is dead rather than looking around and seeing if there are any witches.
I’m afraid that the energy that should have gone into looking at the causes of the abuse crisis in Australia, instead, all that energy went into getting this one man and putting him behind bars.

Grazie: And also solving, finding solutions, right? Finding solutions for the lack of good moments in the priesthood, chastity.

Phil: You know, when he came to Melbourne early on as archbishop of Melbourne, he instituted what’s called the Melbourne Response, which was a series of programs to respond to sexual abuse. They weren’t perfect, but they were pretty good and they were by far the best in Australia. So in a way, he was ahead of the game.
I also said earlier that he wasn’t perfect and he’s admitted as much, but he was ahead of the game as far as Australian bishops responding to sexual abuse by clerics there. He really shouldn’t have been the chosen target that he was.
There’s one more factor that I don’t think you can ignore. He left Australia eventually to become the Secretary to the Economy in at the Vatican, the first and only prelate to hold that job. He was looking into economic corruption in Rome and it was at the point where he was starting to rattle cages in Rome that the voices on Australia accusing him began to be heard. I wonder if that’s a coincidence. I wonder if that’s evidence of a different sort of corruption in the church that also should be rooted out.

Grazie: Well, you mentioned the Vatican, Mr. Lawler, and I think that is a very important question that is in a lot of people’s minds. What does the Vatican do in the case that his next appeal to the high court is rejected, for instance? What does the Vatican do in this case? What are the choices?

Phil: There’s a whole range of choices of no established policy. I suppose he could be stripped of his status as a cardinal. He’s already beyond retirement age and although he has not been removed from his position at the Vatican, he’s obviously on leave and he’s obviously not going to come back. He could be subject to further disgrace as far as his role in the Vatican.
The only way it changes is if he’s exonerated and goes back to Rome, and even without his portfolio in the secretariat to the economy, he would at least be a force there once again.

Grazie: Isn’t there a chance that the Vatican could do their own internal investigation and not come to the same conclusions as this Australian court?

Phil: Yes.

Grazie: Then what does the Vatican do?

Phil: Good question. Thus far the Vatican has been saying that it relies on the Australian courts and remarkably enough, Cardinal Pell has been saying the same thing that he has faith in the justice of the Australian court system. The Vatican has not begun any investigation, to the best of my knowledge.

Andrea: It’s very important, I think, that the Church waits for the civil authorities to finish their process. That’s one of the hopes that that all of us have and we should continue to pray for that, that the high court in Australia will rectify this.
One of the things that I was very struck by in general, the work that you’ve written in other people like George Weigel and the National Catholic Register, have really pointed out the deficiencies in this conviction, but yesterday there was a terrible article from the National Catholic Reporter editorial staff and basically poo-pooing these concerns.
I don’t know if you had to add a chance to read that, but I think it’s important that not just people who side with Cardinal Pell for his orthodoxy or agree with him for his conservative principles, but that all Catholics push hard against civil authorities that rush to convict because the accused is wearing a priestly collar or a cardinal’s hat or whatever vestments. If they’re Dominican robes, you know, that it’s a moral obligation that we have to demand truth and to question when there is a conclusion or a conviction that isn’t based in truth.

Phil: Yes, and to question ourselves when we say, there is part of human nature, that when you don’t like someone, you find yourself in opposition to someone. You’re all the more ready to believe that they’re guilty of whatever bad things they’re charged with.
I think it’s probably a good thing for us to examine our own consciences and say if this had been somebody that we disagreed with, if this had been someone on the other side of arguments within the Church, would we be as willing to come to his defense? And I sure hope that in my case the answer is yes. I can’t think of another case.

Andrea: Mm-hm.

Grazie: You’re right, Mr. Lawler, on that. We should all question ourselves on that. It’s a very good question. Thank you so much for joining us in Conversations with Consequences. It was a great pleasure to have you, Mr. Lawler.

Andrea: Yes, thank you so much.

Phil: Thank you. I enjoyed myself.

Grazie: Thank you for helping us to understand this better and thank you to our listeners. We will be back after the break with Father Landry’s weekly holily.
Every morning, the Catholic Association reviews all the latest news and sends our subscribers a carefully curated collection of the most important news of the day. Items are specifically selected for a smart Catholic audience. Subscribe at
This week, as is customary, Father Roger Landry gives us a short but brilliant homily on this coming Sunday’s gospel. Please stay tuned for Father Landry.

Father Roger Landry: This is Father Roger Landry, and I’m pleased once more to have the chance to enter with you into the consequential conversation the Lord Jesus wants to have with us this Sunday.
He’ll speak to us about a wedding banquet and say that when we’re invited, we shouldn’t take the place of honor lest we lose it to a more distinguished guest. But to go to the lowest place so that the host will invite us to take a higher seat. Jesus here is doing far more than giving us advice on how to achieve the best seats at a wedding reception. His point was to teach us how to be exalted at the eternal wedding banquet in Heaven to which the host, his Father, has invited the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.
In order for us to hear God, the Father say to us, friend, move up higher, which is the deepest longing that should exist in the human heart. Jesus says that there’s only one way to recognize that we’re poor and need of the Lord’s true riches, that we’re crippled in need of the Lord’s help to straighten ourselves out, that we’re lame and need Lord’s grace to walk by faith, that we’re blind in need of the light of faith to see things clearly.
We must, in short, humble ourselves, for it’s only the humble, Jesus insists, will be so exalted. These are very hard and challenging words in our culture, which so much prizes human exaltation, proceeded in the ever growing number of awards show indulging the egos of those in film, television and music, giving out awards for best actors, actresses, singers, band directors, producers, graphic artists, film editors, hair stylists, sound mixers and so many others.
We see it in the honors we give to the most intelligent students, to the best looking women in pageants, to the most successful sales reps, which are the most valuable players, even to the best groomed dogs.
So many of us have been raised with the desire not only to be the best, but to be acknowledged as the best. That if begrudgingly we recognize we’re not the best, sometimes we have a crisis. We at least want to be better than those we know. But to all of us in this culture, Jesus says to us in words that will come right before the gospel in the Allelujea verse. “Learn from me, from meek and humble of heart.”
Jesus’ whole life is a lesson of humility, and he wants to turn to each of us and say to us, “Follow me”. Jesus was so humble that he took on the form of a slave to serve us rather than to be served, to wash our feet, to become obedient to human authority, even to allow himself to be mistreated, mishandled and murdered by his own creature. Also that he might save us. He humbled himself and God the Father exalted him forever. So he says to us in this, “Follow me”. If we do this, if we imitate and enter into his humility, then we’ll enter into his exultation.
Becoming humble is easier said than done. We first have to have a clear grasp of what humility is and isn’t. Humility comes from the Latin word humus, which means the ground or the dirt. We have to have both of our feet firmly planted in the soil. That first foot, we could say, reminds us that we’re dust and into dust we shall return.
We shouldn’t be self-exalted, but the second foot helps us to look up to see what our real nature is, where God has blown into us the breath of life. To use an image of St. Paul, we’re vastness of clay carrying within an immense treasure, that gift to the soul, and the gift of so many graces that God has given us.
To be humble doesn’t mean that we’re losers but it also doesn’t mean that we’re self-inflated. Means consistent with the overall message of the gospel that we never forget where we’ve come from and remember the greatness that a relationship with God confers. That’s what humility is. Let’s ask how we can grow in it.
The first is to recognize the great treasure of love that God has for each of us. Many times we seek for honor. In this world, we seek for status because we don’t recognize just how esteemed we are in God’s eyes. The more we ponder who we really are, the less we need to be acknowledged by others.
Second, we need to avoid pride, conceit and ambition for ourselves to succeed at others expense. That’s what this Sunday’s gospel will be all about.
Third is to recognize others’ greatness. When we recognize the way God looks at others, that no one is a mere mortal, then it helps us to be able to serve and love them better and also to look at who we really are as well and our great dignity.
The fourth practice is the sacrament of penance. There’s no better way to fight pride than humbly to examine our conscience, to see that we’re not who we want to be or who God wants us to be. Then go on our knees and humbly get it all out.
The fifth is to accept suffering and humiliation, which allows us very fast to grow in humility because this is the school of the cross.
Sixth, this humble prayer like the tax collector in another part of the gospel who doesn’t think we’re owed anything by God but goes before him with open hands poor, knowing that God loves filling those hands.
Last is the holy Eucharist. Jesus became so humble, not just that He took on our human nature and allowed himself to be crucified, He went even further in hiding himself under the appearances of bread and wine, so that we could literally eat him and become him, whom we receive.
This Sunday, as we go to consume Jesus in Holy Communion. Let us ask him for ourselves and for others. Oh, Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts humble like yours.
God bless you.

Grazie: Thank you so much, Father Landry, for doing that for us yet again this week. It’s such a wonderful preparation for Sunday. You can listen or read Father Landry’s homilies on his website To our listeners, I would suggest if you want to grow in humbleness, try to start a radio/podcast.

Andrea: Father Landry always gives a chance to reflect and meditate and I think he shows the importance of humility. We’ve seen that in Cardinal Pell, here a prince of the Church, who has been, in our opinion, unjustly incarcerated, convicted, humiliated. Yet he’s humble, humble before God and shows what his prayers and his sacrifices can do to heal our ailing church.

Grazie: So true, Andrea. You’ve been listening to Conversations with Consequences, a service of the Catholic Association. I’m your hostess Grazie Christie, joined today by my colleague Andrea Picciotti-Bayer and our friend Phil Muller, who is so kind as to talk to us about the sad case of Cardinal Pell.
Be sure to subscribe to our podcast, Conversations with Consequences.