Australian Cardinal George Pell jailed six years for abusing boys

Hugh Fox
March 13, 2019

Pell abused the 13-year-old choir boys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury ruled last year.

The County Court of Victoria had come under fire for suppressing coverage of Pell's trial, as he is seen as the face of the Catholic Church in Australia which has protected pedophile priests.

Kidd said the sentence reflected the severity of Pell's acts, which he described as "breathtakingly arrogant", "perverted", "egregious", and of profound impact on two vulnerable children.

The second episode was "brief and spontaneous" but could not be viewed as an "isolated lapse" as Pell had ample time to reflect on his previous abuse of one of the boys, the judge said.

Pell sat in the back of the courtroom, surrounded by security officers but uncuffed, as Judge Kidd delivered a detailed explanation of the crimes the cardinal had committed and the reasons for the sentence.

"I am not sitting in judgment of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church", Judge Kidd added.

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The judge has begun his remarks by acknowleding that Pell was "one of the most senior figures within the Catholic Church globally" and a "publicly vilified figure" among some sections of the community.

The world is watching today as George Pell is sentenced for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.

The second victim died of a heroin overdose a few years ago.

Outside the court, a silent protest called for the Catholic church to be held accountable for child sexual assault.

After mass one Sunday in the late 1990s, Judge Kidd recounted, Pell caught two choirboys drinking communion wine in the priest's sacristy and one by one forced them to engage in sex acts, despite their sobs and pleas for him to let them go.

Francis appointed Pell to the powerful position of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014. Each offence carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.

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Senior crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC foreshadowed in a pre-sentence hearing Pell would spend "significant time" in prison, including likely long periods in lockdown because of his high profile.

In emotional scenes, those abused by others joined together in Melbourne to witness the outcome of the sentence hearing.

The senior Catholic was convicted in December, but the verdict was suppressed from being made public in Australia by a court order until February 26, when further child sex offence charges against Cardinal Pell dating back to the 1970s were dropped.

"Hopefully this sentence can herald a fundamental change to the Church and other institutions, starting with accountable, responsible and transparent leadership, hierarchy and culture".

He has already served two weeks behind bars, which will be considered as time already served.

After his conviction, the Vatican launched its own investigation into Pell, which could lead to the cardinal losing his clerical status or being "defrocked", a severe punishment imposed by the Pope and not subject to appeal.

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