‘FALLEN’ by Lucie Morris-Marr – A Book Review

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‘FALLEN’ written by investigative journalist Lucie Morris-Marr, follows the courtroom dramas of cardinal George Pell’s two closed court trials. The first trial was abandoned when the jury  could not reach a unanimous decision. Morris-Marr attended every court sitting over both trials. However,  only lawyers and barristers appearing for the Crown and for the Defence, along with the two juries, were permitted to hear the testimony of the surviving choir boy (‘Witness J’) in a closed court . He accused Pell of historical child sexual abuse offences committed when he and his friend were 13 years old.  The other choir boy involved in the sexual abuse offences at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, died in 2014 of a heroin overdose.
Pell’s second  five-week trial ended in December 2018, when a jury found Pell guilty of sexual penetration of a child under 16, as well as four counts of committing an indecent act with, or in the presence of, a child. The verdict relates to two different incidents that took place when Pell was the archbishop of Melbourne.  Evidence was presented that Pell abused the two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral after celebrating one of his first Sunday masses as archbishop. He abused Witness J a second time, two months later.  Parts of Witness J’s  testimony were read out by the prosecutor and Pell’s defence barrister during their closing arguments to the jury.
In Witness J’s  statement read by his lawyer outside the court following  the guilty verdict,  he dedicated the guilty verdict to his deceased friend and asked journalists to respect his privacy and that of his family including his young children, by not revealing his identity.
The harrowing accounts Morris-Marr writes about in her book relating to her investigation of George Pell over many months leading up to his secret trials, the loss of the job she loved at a Murdoch Media newsroom, and the physical strain on her mind and body, bear witness to the power that Pell and his supporters, both within and outside  the Catholic Church, wielded in Australia and around the world. The fact that the compelling testimony of  Witness J  swayed the jury to convict  such a powerful man must cement our faith in Australia’s  judicial system.

George Pell had the best Defence team money could buy and the onus was on the prosecution to prove Pell’s guilt, so the stakes were extremely high. When the unanimous guilty verdict was read out by the jury foreman, there was an audible collective gasp around the courtroom. It was evident that none was more shocked by the guilty verdict than Pell’s highly paid and over confident QC Robert Richter.  A subsequent Appeal by George Pell in the Victoria Court of Appeal  failed by two to one.

This book is a valuable record of the weeks and months leading up to the closed court trials and subsequent conviction at the second trial, of Australia’s highest ranking Catholic cleric and the third highest ranked Vatican official at the time of his arrest.

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Reviewer’s Note: I am surprised that the editor of the book  ‘FALLEN’   written by author/journalist Lucie Morris-Marr and published by Allen and Unwin,  did not pick up a significant error in the book before its publication. Another important book written by Chrissie Foster about her dealings with a callous George Pell when her two daughters had been repeatedly raped by a Catholic priest, is erroneously referred to in ‘FALLEN’ as  ‘Hell On The Way To Hell’  when in fact the correct book title is: 
Ms Foster also wrote the forward in Lucie Morris-Marr’s book.  Not a good look for either the author or the publisher of ‘FALLEN’. Hopefully this error can be corrected asap.
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-Anne Frandi-Coory  3 November 2019

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