WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Cardinal George Pell found guilty of sexual offences in Australia

WelCom April 2019:

George Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of sexual offence crimes.

On 5 March, Cardinal George Pell, 77, was sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison, with a non-parole period of three years and eight months. He was convicted of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys after Sunday Mass in the 1990s. One of them, ‘J’, is now aged in his 30s and testified at trial, while the other, ‘R’, died in 2014.

Cardinal Pell will not be eligible for parole for three years and eight months.

Pell, who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was widely seen as the Church’s third most powerful official.

In December last year, the County Court of Victoria, Australia, found Pell guilty of five counts of child sexual abuse against two former choristers in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1990s – making him the most senior Catholic official to be found guilty in a criminal court for sexually abusing minors. The verdict could not be reported until February this year for legal reasons.

Cardinal Pell’s trial was heard twice last year because a first jury failed to reach a verdict. A second jury unanimously convicted him of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16. The jury found that he abused two choir boys in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997. He had pleaded not guilty. Following the verdict, Pell who has continuously said he is innocent, lodged an appeal.

During the sentencing in March, the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd, spoke for over an hour as he sentenced Cardinal Pell on five charges of sexual offending against two young boys in 1996 and 1997.

Judge Kidd, 53, chief judge of the Victorian County Court, said ‘I would characterise these breaches and abuses as grave.’ Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added, ‘Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.’

Judge Kidd described the graphic details of the abuse and said the offending has had a ‘significant and long-lasting impact’ on one victim.

An appeal against his conviction is expected to be heard in June.

The Vatican confirmed that Pell was prohibited from public ministry and had been banned from having contact with minors. He has to abide by these rules until any appeal is over. They added that while the ruling was ‘painful’, and the Church has the ‘utmost respect’ for the Australian authorities, Pell has the right to ‘defend himself to the last degree’.