There is nothing unbelievable about a Prince of the Church being a thoroughly corrupt criminal.
People who claim to be in direct communion with supernatural beings and and make a living from interceding with them on behalf of petitioners are widely regarded as dishonest or delusional. They used to be generally trusted and many still trust them. But many more don't.
Being a Cardinal is now, in itself, grounds for suspicion. Perhaps also grounds for suspicion of a sense of invulnerability that might explain implausibly brazen attacks rather than the more usual furtiveness of corrupt criminals. Knowing that one is both untrustworthy and trusted could explain a lot.
But grounds for suspicion and grounds for conviction are quite different matters.
It is a crime under s316 of the NSW Crimes Act s where a person "knows or believes" that a serious crime has been committed, and fails, without a reasonable excuse, to inform the police.
An Archbishop convicted by a jury for failing to report child abuse under s316 was quite recently acquitted on appeal. The court held there was a reasonable doubt as to whether he believed the allegation.
There was no widespread dismay or enthusiasm about that Archbishop being charged and found guilty, nor at the subsequent acquittal.
That is because both the prosecution of the Archbishop and the appeal made sense and it is the normal function of courts for some jury convictions to be held unsafe on appeal.
But public reaction to the recent conviction of a Cardinal is much deeper and will not end with either result from the appeal.
What does not make sense is that there has been no regular flow of such cases, with both convictions and acquittals since the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse documented the extent of deliberate concealment of abuse by institutions supposedly caring for children, especially by religious institutions and most notoriously by the Catholic Church.
The Cardinal's case is viewed quite differently because he was not charged with an offence that actually made sense.
The Royal Commission recommended codification of an offence similar to that now in s49o of the Crimes Act Victoria. This provides 5 years imprisonment for "Failure by a person in authority to protect a child from a sexual offence".
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