The interview that exposed Pell’s lie
If it wasn't for this unearthed TV interview, George Pell might have been viewed with a bit more credibility.
Pell was yesterday sentenced to six years' imprisonment - with a non-parole period of three years and eight months - for abusing two 13-year-old choirboys after a Sunday mass at the Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in December 1996.
But his insistence of innocence goes beyond the trial against him, to a history of seeking to protect his reputation and that of the Catholic Church at all costs.
Here is the interview that would later expose one of his first public denials.
THE PHOTO PELL DENIED SEEING
In 2002, 60 Minutes interviewer Richard Carleton brought Pell's attention to Chrissie and Anthony Foster in Victoria, whose two daughters were abused by notorious paedophile Father Kevin O'Donnell at Oakleigh Sacred Heart Primary School.
At the time of the interview, the names of the family members were redacted.
Pell confirmed he knew the family, and said he had met once with the parents.
"The family is of the opinion that if you'd done your job, the daughters wouldn't have been abused," Carleton told Pell.
He quoted the parents' account of their interaction with Pell, which has not changed since the incident took place: "We showed Pell a photo of him presenting our daughter with a confirmation certificate. His response was, 'That's a very nice photo.'
"We then showed him a photo of our daughter just after she had cut her wrists with blood coming out of them, and his only comment - with absolutely no change in attitude or facial expression - was, 'Oh, she's changed a bit, hasn't she?'"
In the 2002 interview, Pell denied having seen the latter picture. "I've never seen the photo with the slashed wrists," he said.
"The mother and father say they gave it to you," the interviewer replied.
"I don't believe I've seen it. I've got no recollection of that. I mean it's awful … I don't believe I ever saw that."
The subject then moved on to Pell offering the family $50,000 in exchange for their silence.
"I offered them nothing," Pell initially said. "They were free to go into a process which is run by an independent panel."
But Carleton had a letter from Corrs Chamber Westgarth which confirmed the legal firm was acting on Pell's behalf.
"You offered them 50 grand to be quiet," he said.
"I offered them 50 grand in compensation according to the publicly-acknowledged procedures … and they chose not to accept that," said Pell.
"You bought their silence," insisted Carleton. "Or sought to buy their silence."
"If they want to go to the law we will use the law to defend ourselves," said Pell.
"And you swore them to secrecy."
"Well, we ask them to keep -'
"You don't ask them, you swore them," interjected Carleton again.
"There is a requirement that they don't talk about it, and most of them are happy not to," said Pell. "And if they don't want to use that, they can do something else (go to court).
"Many of them don't want to be subjected to publicity, and of course, it's shameful for the church."
O'Donnell was charged with 49 child sex offences in 1995 and pleaded guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault. He received 39 months in jail.
He died in March 1997, four months after his release from prison.
HOW PELL'S STORY CHANGED
Over a decade after the 60 Minutes interview, Pell's story changed dramatically. Appearing before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry on May 27, 2013, it was made clear that Pell had in fact seen the photo of the Foster daughter with slashed wrists.
"When Chrissie and Anthony Foster showed you the photograph, after their daughter Emma had slashed her wrists, did you respond, 'Mmm, she's changed, hasn't she?'" Pell was asked.
"Probably," he responded. "But you've got to understand there was this production of this photo - something sudden - and I didn't have a chance for a considered response."
In 2015, this was described by 60 Minutes as a bombshell revelation, revealing that after more than a decade of denial, Pell admitted that he had in fact seen the photo of the victim with slashed wrists.
An opinion piece in The Catholic Weekly, on the other hand, suggested Pell may have genuinely forgotten seeing the photo during the 2002 interview.
"It is possible that after reflecting on the question following what was obviously a tense interview (which Cardinal Pell described as an "ambush" in the days following), Cardinal Pell recalled seeing the photo or accepted that it was likely it had been showed to him," wrote author Monica Doumit.
Pell is now in prison. He will not be permitted to apply for parole for three years and eight months.