Before the Court of Appeals of Victoria, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court President Chris Maxwell formed the majority in favor of rejecting Pell's appeal that the jury verdict was unreasonable on the evidence presented.
In an extensive dissent from the majority finding, Justice Mark Weinberg noted that the entirety of the evidence against Pell consisted of the testimony of a single accuser, whereas more than 20 witnesses were produced to testify against his narrative.
"Even the 'reasonable possibility' that what the witnesses who testified to these matters may have been true must inevitably have led to an acquittal," Weinberg wrote, concluding that Pell had, in effect, been improperly asked to establish the "impossibility" of his guilt and not merely reasonable doubt.
Pell has maintained his innocence, with his defense making central the argument that the alleged crimes would have been, under the circumstances, "simply impossible."
Pell was convicted of exposing himself and forcing two choir boys to commit sex acts while fully vested in his Sunday Mass garb, almost immediately after Mass in the priests' sacristy at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1996. Pell was at that time Archbishop of Melbourne. He was also convicted of fondling one of the boys in a corridor in 1997.
Pell's defenders have contended that the sacristy abuse allegations are not possible given the high traffic after Mass and the obstructing nature of the Mass vestments.
The cardinal is detained at the Melbourne Assessment Prison. As a convicted child sex offender, Pell has been held in solitary confinement for extra protection from other inmates. He is not permitted to celebrate Mass in prison. He has recently obtained a prison job weeding a courtyard.
Responding to the Court of Appeal decision in August, Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, said that "the Holy See acknowledges the court's decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell's appeal," while reiterating its "respect for the Australian judicial system."
"As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court."