Cardinal George Pell, formerly a senior advisor to Pope Francis, was today (13 March) sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing two choir boys in Australia in the late 1990s, BBC has reported.
Pell is now the highest ranking Vatican official ever criminally prosecuted for sexual abuse.
In December, an Australian court convicted Cardinal George Pell, the third highest ranking official in the Catholic Church, on one count of sexual penetration of a child and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child. The legal proceeding were done on an ‘in camera’ basis. The public and the media were excluded from the proceedings considering the sensitivity.
Pell’s final sentencing on Tuesday (12 March), however, was transmitted live to the nation from Victoria’s County Court in Melbourne.
The presiding judge, Peter Kidd, dismissed the contention by Pell’s lawyers that the cardinal was not in his right mind when he committed the act of sexual assault. The judge pointed that Pell had just delivered a the sermon just before he molested two choir boys
Pell, who served as Vatican City’s de facto finance chief, was accused in hearings before the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of covering up abuse committed by priests when he served as the Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.
Pell allegedly abused as many as 10 minors whose ages now range between the late 20s to the early 50s. A task force investigating these claims has said that the Cardinal abused minors by 'both grooming and opportunity'.
Pell left Rome in June 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne. Two choir boys accused Pell of sexually abusing them in a backroom at St Patrick’s Cathedral, where they sang, when he was the archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.
Pell also stood trial for allegedly abusing two other boys at a swimming pool in Victoria in the 1970s, when he served as a priest there.
Pell is also facing internal investigation by by the Vatican that may result in his defrocking. Defrocking is considered a permanent punishment that is reserved for the gravest abuses and only Pope is authorised to hand over such a sentence.
The Catholic Church was engulfed in a major crisis this year as reports emerged of widespread sexual misconduct by members of the clergy across the world. Pope Francis himself was accused of being directly involved in covering up sexual abuse by a disgraced Cardinal.
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