Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2020 / 21:20 pm
The High Court of Australia ordered the acquittal of Cardinal George Pell on Tuesday.
While Pell's criminal trials in Australia are now at an end, the same accusations which saw him first convicted, then denied appeal, then acquitted, must now be addressed by the Church's own legal process. That canonical process, on hold while the Australian justice system ran its course, can now begin.
While many of Pell's supporters might consider any further legal ordeal for the cardinal to be unnecessary, even cruel, Vatican efforts to restore faith in its ability to handle accusations of sexual abuse fully and fairly – no exceptions – mean that there will have to be some kind of canonical process.
The necessity for some canonical process to formally address the accusations against Pell does not, however, mean it need be lengthy. While the pope alone is competent to determine how a case against a cardinal proceeds, in practice Francis is almost sure to depute the process to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – something provided for in the motu proprio Sacromentorum sanctitatis tutela. Unless there is pressing evidence on both sides of the case, the CDF rarely convenes a full trial- especially when the matter has received a full litigation in a secular court.