There can be little doubt Wednesday August 21 will be a momentous day for Ballarat.
The Victorian Court of Appeals will decide the fate of one of the city's most internationally prominent sons, Cardinal George Pell.
Few court decisions have been more anticipated and few have polarised opinion more than the single high profile case that has come to be seen as both a symbol and a tipping point in the long decades of clerical abuse that beset the Ballarat diocese and Australia.
For some this year's high profile conviction is the death knell for a grotesquely abusive and increasingly irrelevant institution while for others at another extreme; it is a conspiracy of secular modernism targeting an innocent man.
Pell was found guilty of sexually assaulting two choir boys in Melbourne in 1996 and was sentenced in March to six years jail. The 78 year-old has been in custody since that time awaiting his appeal outcome.
Today's decision presents several possibilities but the two most anticipated are that the appeal is rejected and he completes his sentence or alternatively the appeal of the verdict is upheld and the cardinal will walk a free man.
Both outcomes will likely trigger waves of dismay and disbelief in respective parts of the community. That in itself makes it a significant story for Ballarat.
But for the sake of the community and perhaps most importantly, those who have suffered most in the long and terrible ordeal that has been clerical sexual abuse, its victims, it is worth adding some perspective to this story.
Whatever the outcome of today's appeal, a grasp of the bigger picture may help inform reactions to this judgement and more critically, help in establishing the even more important work of what needs to be done next to help victims.
Cardinal Pell is not the whole of the Catholic Church, however much he represents part of it, and equally a single prosecution does not define the far wider issue of Catholic clerical abuse in Ballarat.
In this regard the international story of a cardinal condemned or reprieved may be of less lasting significance to the local story of how Ballarat will move on from its own dark history; healing the scars and protecting from any future repetition of the tragedy.
The individual prosecution may have served as evidence that no one is beyond the law, regardless of stature, but equally it is also an indicator that justice must be blind, and in principle any man (or woman) deserves the impartial judgement of our legal system.
A reprieve will send ominous shock waves through all those hoping to tell their story and seek justice through the courts but at the same time an innocent person cannot be condemned on that general principle.
Putting aside the symbolism of this specific prosecution and whether these victims have been served with justice - it is worth recalling another far more powerful and resonating judgement on the issue has already been made and it came from years of work at the Royal Commission.
This was not a prosecution of perpetrators but a scathing indictment upon the institutions that let these crimes happen. The many tales of ongoing personal tragedy and the recommendations laid down at the commission's conclusion show even two years on, how much more work is yet to be done.
But a danger remains, and this goes for whether Pell is reprieved or has his conviction upheld. The Courier has long argued that the excessive focus on a single case or single man will not help solve the wider cultural problem.
The Royal Commission found denial, obfuscation and collusion over sexual abuse were systemic in the Catholic Church, among other institutions. The results in Ballarat for so many families, were catastrophic. A scapegoat, might provide a temporary emotional catharsis and vindication but can also fail to address the broader problem.
It is dangerous, just as the "few bad apples" argument long used by church apologists showed, because it tempts one to simplify, to obscure, overlook and even excuse.
Prosecuting specific cases for the sake of justice must be only the beginning when it comes to the longer-term task of addressing a root evil and ensuring a future where children are safe.
The Pell case may one day be a thing of the past but this is the bigger burden of the future for Ballarat.
- Anyone affected can phone CASA, Sebastopol on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292. Or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.