Cardinal – The Rise & Fall of George Pell

“Without a doubt, this is the toughest story I have ever done” said Louise Milligan when Secrets talked with her about her book: ‘Cardinal, The Rise and Fall of George Pell’. Louise wasn’t talking about the book, but rather her three-year investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse against George Pell, the county’s most senior and powerful Catholic. 

Louise Milligan is an investigative reporter for the ABC’s Four Corners program. She covered the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. Her exclusive stories for the ABC’s 7.30 program on the allegations against George Pell won her several awards and for her book, ‘Cardinal’ she was awarded the Walkley Book Award and the Sir Owen Dixon Chambers Law Reporter of the Year Award among others. 

The case against Cardinal George Pell for child sex offences has been with us for a very long time. The investigation, the denials, the court case, the conviction and imprisonment and the denied appeal has consumed the media and the public for what seems like ages. Louise not only reported on the George Pell child sexual abuse case, but she was called as a key witness during the committal hearing and endured over six hours being cross-examined by Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter, an experience she says gave her an insight into how brutal the legal process can be. Louise said “It was like an out of body experience, I had to be switched on for every second and it felt like much longer than six hours”. 

Milligan’s original book was commissioned in 2016, but was removed from Victorian bookshelves while Pell’s trial was underway. It was awarded the Walkley Book of the Year in 2017. The updated version returned to the shelves in March and it includes new details about Pell’s two victims who Milligan refers to as The Kid and The Choirboy as well as a new foreword by award-winning Australian author Thomas Keneally. Richard Tegoni, then chief executive officer of publishers Melbourne University Publishing said: “The book pieces together decades of disturbing activities and cover-ups by Australia’s most powerful Catholic leader”. 

“The genius of Milligan’s book is letting us hear the voices of the men and women George Pell failed in his climb to the highest reaches of the church. They speak with heartbreaking clarity of his impact on their lives. I can’t imagine this being better done.” Said David Marr in his review. 

Louise feels very deeply for the victims and their families. She says: “To all those people who support Pell, spend the time with the person who has made the allegations and the pain and fear they have endured. Live in their shoes”. ‘Cardinal – The Rise and Fall of George Pell’ is available in all good bookstores

Louise Milligan

Louise Milligan is an investigative reporter for the ABC’s Four Corners program. She covered the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. Her exclusive stories for the ABC’s 7.30 program on the allegations against George Pell won her several awards and for her book, ‘Cardinal’ she was awarded the Walkley Book Award and the Sir Owen Dixon Chambers Law Reporter of the Year Award among others.