Former altar server: Pell, Australian lay Catholics being persecuted as ‘scapegoats’ for clerical sexual abuse
By Dorothy Cummings McLean
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― A former altar server at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Melbourne, Australia, says Cardinal George Pell was convicted as a “scapegoat” for real criminals among the clergy.
And Pell’s not the only scapegoat.
Asked by EWTN’s “The World Over” host Raymond Arroyo if Pell’s jury ignored Justice Peter Kidd’s instruction not to scapegoat Pell, John Macaulay said it had.
“Was the Church on trial?” Arroyo asked.
“Very much so, and not just the hierarchy,” Macaulay replied. “It’s lay Catholics now who are feeling the brunt of this.”
The Melbourne man, an acquaintance of Pell’s, told the host that both social media and mass media are scapegoating even lay Catholics for the crimes “of a small number of Melbourne clergy.” Macaulay reminded Arroyo that Catholics themselves are the victims of abusive clergy and should not be punished.
“This is the equivalent of hitting … and persecuting, for example, a woman who’s been subjected to domestic abuse,” he said. “Lay Catholics are now the ones sporting the bruised eye. But should we be ashamed in public, or should we … hold our heads high?”
In December, a jury found Pell guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral after an 11 a.m. Sunday Mass in 1996. The formal convictions are one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.
The charges were laid after a Australian police investigation, code-named “Operation Tethering,” actively sought evidence that Pell committed sex crimes, even though no complaint had been made against him. A number of men came forward with stories; all but one were dismissed.
Ultimately, only one man, known as “Witness J,” testified against Pell. The other former choir boy named in the charges died before the case came to trial, and not before denying that the abuse took place.
Macaulay told Arroyo that he was an altar server at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the late 1990s, and it was always Pell’s practice to stand outside the cathedral after the 11 o’clock Mass and shake hands with worshippers. Macaulay also underscored he had found the testimony of the sole accuser “implausible” and that 20 crown witnesses had provided alibis for Pell.
“Normally you would drop a case if you had a single alibi,” he said. “Cardinal Pell had 20 alibis, all of (which) have been ignored by the jury, and the uncorroborated testimony of a single individual is the basis of a conviction.”
Macaulay said he was distressed “as an Australian” by the jury’s decision to convict Pell. As a Catholic, however, he had expected it to happen “given that Cardinal Pell has been a lightning rod for 20 years.”
The Melbourne man revealed that in 1996 a group of LGBT protesters came to St. Patrick’s Cathedral every Sunday for Mass dressed in rainbow sashes. Cardinal Pell explained to them that he couldn’t give them communion ― not because they were homosexuals but because they were “making a protest at a very sacred moment.”
“It immediately hit the headlines,” Macaulay recalled, “and from that moment Cardinal Pell was seen (as) an arch-conservative and an ogre (by) the press.”
“So this (jury conviction) is actually a decision 20 years in the making, and I don’t think any Catholic should feign surprise in terms of the hatred that is out there for Cardinal Pell,” he continued.
“Where we should be shocked is (how) the legal system in (the Australian state of) Victoria is now able to find anyone guilty on the uncorroborated testimony of a single individual.”
Macaulay explained that in Victoria the jury has the final say in a trial, and even if there had been CCTV footage that proved Pell innocent, “a jury still has the ability to decide another story.” He does not find fault with the judge who advised the jury for “the reality is that the jury chose to ignore him.”
Given the bias against the Catholic Church in the state of Victoria, Macaulay believes that if Pell’s conviction is overturned on appeal, the “wall-to-wall” press coverage of his trial will end abruptly and “the mud will stick.”
Pell has been sentenced to six years in prison, but Macaulay told Arroyo that this is still “a long time,” especially for a man in precarious health, and that Pell may never walk free.
“It’s more likely that, any point in the coming months, Cardinal Pell could leave that prison in a pine casket,” he said. “He’s an elderly man, and this could, in fact, be the end of him.”
Arroyo offered his own opinion of Pell’s trial, conviction, and imprisonment clear.
“I am frankly scandalized by, not only the way that this case was handled, but the solitary confinement the Cardinal finds himself in now,” he said.
“I’m also told he cannot celebrate Mass,” he continued.
“He cannot have access to altar wine, so he’s even deprived of exercising his ministry behind bars, which seems a double penalty here.”
Macaulay added that the Cardinal has been deprived of his breviary, that his solitary confinement is 23 hours a day, and that he is allowed only one visitor a week. Nevertheless, the Cardinal is in good spirits.
“There’s a reason why cardinals wear red,” the layman said. “It would be an extraordinary outcome if in the end Cardinal Pell was seen … as a martyr.”
Arroyo’s interview of Macaulay has attracted vile abuse on Twitter by Australians who accuse Macaulay of not having been at Pell’s trial and Arroyo of looking and sounding like “Pee-wee Herman.”