The secret testimony of George Pell’s surviving sex abuse victim was so credible that a jury found the cardinal guilty without other witnesses or forensic evidence.
Commentators have poured scorn on the conviction, pointing out that it is rare to run a case on the word of a single witness.
But one of the few people to have spoken to the victim about his ordeal has no doubt he is telling the truth.
Pell is pictured surrounded by police officers and camera crews on the way to court on Wednesday
While writing a book on the Pell case, ABC journalist Louise Milligan tracked down the man who was molested by the cardinal in 1996 in a Melbourne cathedral.
She told the ABC last night that she believes the victim because he ‘has everything to lose and nothing to gain.’
‘This man is a very private person,’ she said on The 7.30 Report.
‘He doesn’t want to be defined by being a victim of George Pell.
‘What I have always said to people through the years is that I defy anyone to meet this man and not think that he is telling the truth.
‘He has nothing to gain from this and everything to lose.’
She noted that the man’s evidence was given in secret and added: ‘He must have been extraordinarily believable in that witness box.
‘From what I know of him I’m not surprised by that one iota.’
Pell (pictured in 2003) has always vehemently denied the sex attacks against the two choirboys happened, but a jury found otherwise
In her book titled Cardinal, Milligan says the victim, whom she calls The Kid, is an ideal witness.
‘The Kid has not led a chequered life,’ Milligan writes.
‘He’s university-educated, he hasn’t had trouble with the law. He has a lovely young girlfriend, lots of friends, he’s a pillar of his community in a sort of understated, slightly ironic way, and in that part of his life, he is, he told me, very happy.
‘He’s managed, just, to keep it together. He’s been able to compartmentalise. He’s the sort of complainant you’d want as a Victoria Police detective alleging historic crime.’
Several people made complaints against Pell although only one incident involving The Kid and another boy who were molested in St Patrick’s Catheldral was brought to full trial.
The other boy died aged 30 from a heroin overdose, leaving The Kid as the single witness.
This is the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, as it looks today and shown to the jury, where Cardinal George Pell molested two 13-year-old choirboys in his ceremonial robes
On the other side of the room is a kitchen sink and cabinets next to the altar wine cabinet, a small room with a white door left slightly ajar
Milligan, who was called as a witness in the committal proceeding before the trial, said last night she felt ‘beaten’ by the process of being examined in court.
‘I felt beaten by this process – I thought how harrowing it must have been for them reliving what they went through,’ she said.
‘It’s an unimaginable ordeal. This is something that happened to them as little kids and they’re really embarrassed about it.
‘Then they have the courage to come forward and they are met with doubt and suspicion.’
Several commentators, from prominent Catholics to crime journalists, have poured scorn on the conviction and still believe Pell is innocent.
Pope Francis (right, with Pell) banned him from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over
Some say the trial was not fair because any jury was pre-determined to make Pell a scapegoat for child abuse in the Catholic Church.
Others, such as crime writer John Silvester, say it is rare to run a case on the testimony of one witness without forensic evidence, a pattern of behaviour or a confession.
Catholic academic George Weigel even proposes the wild conspiracy theory that Pell was just about to expose a major corruption scandal in the Vatican before he was charged and came home to Australia to defend himself.
Milligan pointed out that commentators sticking up for Pell may have a warped view because the evidence defending him was heard in open court while the evidence against him was kept secret.
Pell, the third most senior catholic in the world and once considered a pope in waiting, was in December found guilty of molesting two choirboys in 1996 before the verdict was made public on Tuesday.
He will be sentenced on 13 March and will appeal his conviction thereafter.
Convicted: George Pell hobbled into court on Wednesday after he was found guilty of molesting two choirboys