Pell's failed appeal sends message to Israel about Leifer
22 August 2019
THE CONFIRMATION OF CARDINAL George Pell’s conviction for sexual assault of a boy sends an important message to Catholic Church in Australia, the Vatican, and to Israel – no-one is above the law, and do not underestimate the Australian justice system.
While the Vatican says it will suspend any formal response until all legal avenues have been exhausted, it also reiterates that Pell maintains his innocence. This is a statement of staggering arrogance, as if Pell’s word acts as some sort of moral counterbalance to the transparent verdicts of our justice system.
It reflects poorly on the Pope and his advisers and portrays them as still living in another century. The claims by institutional religious leaders saying they can’t believe the allegations of victims of child sexual abuse are as hollow as an empty church or synagogue.
The rejection of Pell’s appeal also shouts a message to Israel and Malka Leifer, her supporters, the Israeli government and its disgraced Deputy Health Minister, Yacov Litzman.
The continued blocking of Leifer’s extradition is a stain on the fabric of Israel’s democracy. If there is political will, legal technicalities can be overcome. Though she has been in custody for 18 months, every day she remains untried is an offence to those she hurt. Leifer’s years of liberty stand in contrast with her victims’ lifetime of emotional and other problems – Dassi Erlich has gone public about her self-harming, Pell’s other victim in the church died from an accidental drug overdose.
The campaign by Dassi Erlich, her sisters and supporters to have Leifer extradited back to Australia to be tried her crimes, demonstrates profound personal courage. But it would not count for much if we did not have a legal system to do justice to their untiring efforts.
The legal process that has underpinned Pell’s conviction reminds us of the power and credibility of our justice system: Leifer would face the full weight of the law, she would be entitled to appropriate representation, and that Australians can trust that whatever verdict is reached will be fair and just.
The Morrison government must be encouraged to redouble efforts to aid the Leifer campaign, and put pressure on the Israeli government to put justice above the cowardly behaviour exhibited by Leifer and her defenders.
STATEMENT BY MANNY WAKS
“Today’s decision to reject Cardinal George Pell’s appeal is a monumental one. It sends an unequivocal message: no one is above the law.
“Pell has been responsible for so much evil, and the cause for the pain and suffering of countless victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families within the Catholic Church. As the most senior Catholic in Victoria for many years, it was under Pell’s watch that abuse, cover-ups and intimidation of survivors and their families was rampant. And now, it has been confirmed that Pell is also a repeat offender of the most heinous crimes; he is a convicted paedophile.
“Pell will be rightly remembered among some of the most evil people in Australian history. And for the significant harm he has caused, he deserves this notoriety.
“Now that Pell has been held to account, the Catholic Church itself must also continue to be held to account. The Church must undertake a process of reflection and change. It must also demonstrate humility in its dealings with the countless it has harmed as primary and secondary victims, and it must adopt radical changes that will ensure the safety of its children today and into the future. Government should step in if the Church is unwilling or unable to do this.
“Today is a great day for justice. Well done and thank you to the courageous survivor. Our thoughts are with the family of Pell’s other victim who is no longer alive.
“Importantly, everyone impacted by today’s decision should ensure to look after themselves.”
Manny Waks is an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community
Originally published at Plus61J.