Australian cardinal sentenced to prison for child sex abuse

The 77-year-old denies the allegations and will appeal his convictions

The most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse was sentenced in an Australian court on Wednesday to 6 years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral more than 20 years ago.

Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd on Wednesday ordered Cardinal George Pell to serve a minimum of 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole. Each of the five convictions against Pell carried a maximum possible sentence of 10 years each.

“In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance,” Kidd said in handing down the sentence.

Pope Francis’ former finance minister had been convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy’s 13-year-old friend in the late 1990s, months after Pell became archbishop of Melbourne. A court order had suppressed media reporting the news until last month.

READ MORE: Pope vows to end abuse coverups but victims disappointed

The 77-year-old denies the allegations and will appeal his convictions in the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.

In explaining his sentencing decision, the judge said Pell had led an “otherwise blameless life.” Kidd said he believed given Pell’s age and lack of any other criminal record, the cardinal posed no risk of re-offending.

The judge also took pains to note that he was sentencing Pell for the offences on which the cardinal had been convicted — and not for the sins of the Catholic Church.

“As I directed the jury who convicted you in this trail, you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church,” Kidd said.

But the judge also noted that Pell had abused his position of power and had shown no remorse for his crimes. Kidd described the assaults as egregious, degrading and humiliating to the victims.

After centuries of impunity, cardinals from Australia to Chile and points in between are facing justice in both the Vatican and government courts for their own sexual misdeeds or for having shielded abusers under their watch.

Last week, France’s senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, was convicted of failing to report a known pedophile priest to police. Barbarin was given a six-month suspended sentence.

Pope Francis last month defrocked the onetime leader of the American church after an internal investigation determined Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually molested children and adult men. It was the first time a cardinal had been defrocked over the child abuse scandal.

One of Pell’s victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 without ever reporting the abuse.

The survivor made a statement against Pell the following year to a police task force set up to investigate allegations that arose from a state parliamentary inquiry into handling of child abuse by religious and other nongovernment organizations. The task force also investigates allegations made to a similar national inquiry, called the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Australian law prohibits the publication of sex crime victims’ identities.

Pell gave evidence by video link from Rome to the royal commission, the nations’ highest level of inquiry, in 2016 about his time as a church leader in Melbourne and in his hometown of Ballarat.

The four-year royal commission found in its 2017 report that the Melbourne Archdiocese had ignored or covered up allegations of child abuse by seven priests in a bid to protect the church’s reputation and avoid scandal.

The royal commission was critical of Pell’s predecessor in Melbourne, Archbishop Frank Little, who died in 2008. It made no findings against Pell, saying in a redacted report that it would not publish information that could “prejudice current or future criminal or civil proceedings.”

Australian police interviewed Pell about the survivor’s allegations in a Rome hotel in 2016. Pell described the allegations at the time as “vile and disgusting conduct” that went against everything he believed in.

Pell voluntarily returned to Australia in 2017 to face an array of child abuse charges, most of which have since been dropped. The full details of those allegations were suppressed by court orders.

Pell was once the highest-ranking Catholic in Australia’s second-largest city, where he is now a prisoner held in protective security. Pedophiles such as Pell are typically separated from the main prison populations in Australia.

Pell was 55 years old and had recently established a compensation plan for Melbourne’s victims of clergy abuse when he abused the two boys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The survivor testified that Pell had walked in on the boys swigging altar wine in a back room after a Sunday Mass.

More than a month later, Pell abused the survivor again, squeezing the boy’s genitals as they passed in a cathedral corridor after a Mass.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Protective human chain to form around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders invited to stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

UVic hosts forum on state of democracy with scholars from around the globe

Forum takes place Friday in Ceremonial Hall in First Peoples House at the University of Victoria

Appeal by Victoria to province for regional police puts pressure on Saanich

Mayor Fred Haynes opposes push for regional policing

City of Victoria announces two more affordable housing projects

The city commits nearly $2M to projects in James Bay and Hillside-Quadra neighbourhoods

VicPD officer saves man overdosing on opioids

The man was found lying on the sidewalk early Thursday morning

Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash sentenced to eight years

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Fierce feline spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Wilson-Raybould to reveal more details, documents on SNC-Lavalin affair

Former attorney general has written to the House of Commons justice committee

Anti-discrimination group wants to map offenders with cross-Canada hate atlas

Morgane Oger Foundation issues call for volunteers to help build Canadian Atlas of Populist Extremism

Dump truck driver hurt after highway crash on Vancouver Island

One man airlifted to hospital after collision between dump truck and pickup Friday in Ladysmith

Kater to launch ridesharing service in Vancouver by end of month

The Surrey-based company got its permits from the Vancouver Taxi Association

Second case of measles reported in the B.C. Interior

Case is connected to an earlier measles case in 100 Mile House

Most Read