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

‘Cowardly acts’ towards homeless continue in Osoyoos

RCMP confirm they are investigating two incidents of assault on a homeless person

Funding brings sigh or relief for Penticton Search and Rescue

Province announces a funding injection for operations, equipment and training

Turning an Okanagan hospital’s medical waste into art

Safe recycled waste materials are being used by local artists to create art

Total hogwash: Mr. Banks gives cars a piggy polish

Mr. Banks, who lives on the Critteraid farm in the Okanagan, was offering the service on the weekend

Jail sentence for South Okanagan bank robber with ties to Surrey

The Surrey man convicted of the 2017 robbery of the Penticton Valley First sentenced to seven years

VIDEO: Fire contained to garage beside East Kelowna house

Garage is fully involved, say firefighters

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

B.C. NDP moves to provide tax credits, tax cut for LNG Canada

Provincial sales tax break of $596 million repayable after construction

COLUMN: Smart phone too powerful a tool to yank from students’ hands

Rather than ban them from schools, let’s teach kids to harness their phone’s power and use it properly

Young mother dies in Highway 3 semi collision

According to friends the victim was on her way to work, to a job she started earlier in the week

Animals seized again from North Okanagan property

Animals to be seized not yet confirmed

B.C. river cleanup crew finds bag of discarded sex toys

Chilliwack volunteers stumble on unexpected find while removing 600 lbs of trash from riverway

Trudeau sells housing plan in visit to hot real estate market in B.C.

Trudeau said the budget contains measures to help first-time buyers

Cultural plan, with public feedback, to be presented at Kelowna council meeting

Council will be presented with an update to the 2020-2025 Cultural Plan Monday

Most Read