In a time of child abuse scandals and cover-ups surrounding the Catholic Church, Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of five charges last week for child sexual offences by a unanimous jury verdict.
Pell, the Vatican Treasurer and third most senior Catholic official in the world, was convicted for one count of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, and four counts of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. The 77-year-old, who is currently behind bars after his bail was revoked in the Court of Appeal, will be sentenced on March 13. Pell will appeal over ‘fundamental irregularity’ in his sexual abuse trial after the sentencing date, and will argue his conviction should be overturned or receive a retrial.
Pell hid and enabled child sexual assault
There has been a long-standing culture of resignation and complicity in the Catholic Church, and the prevalent moral failings cannot be ignored any longer. The disgraced cardinal, who is now a convicted paedophile, used his influential position and power to hide and enable child sexual assault. These abhorrent acts on children should never be downplayed, which Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter appallingly described as “plain” and “vanilla” sex offences. With this jury verdict, a large leap towards justice has been served to all victims of child abuse, and more specifically, victims of clerical child abuse.
During the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Peter O’Brien, Principal Lawyer and Founder of O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors, fiercely cross-examined George Pell, while representing a former student of the Christian Brothers in Ballarat. The former student had alerted to Cardinal Pell of concerns about St Patrick’s priest Father Ted Dowlan in 1973, and Pell did nothing about it.
Peter’s uncompromising line of questioning elicited several concessions from Pell, including the Cardinal’s most explicit mea culpa, where he admitted, “With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more.” At a time before the recent jury trial, Peter was able to see Pell as someone who “pointed the finger at other people” and was “trying to minimise [his] own involvement.” Read the full transcript here.
The Pell Appeal
Pell will appeal over ‘fundamental irregularity’ in his sexual abuse trial after his sentencing date, and will argue his conviction should be overturned or he should receive a retrial. Proponents of Cardinal George Pell include former Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbot, as well as social and political commentator Andrew Bolt. The latter wrote an opinion piece on Pell as being falsely convicted of sexually abusing two boys and used as a scapegoat for the crimes that have transpired from the Catholic Church.
It has been reported that abuse victims who received compensation through cardinal George Pell’s Melbourne Response could be entitled to tens of millions of dollars in additional payments from the church. The Herald Sun reported today that a man will file a lawsuit against Pell in the Supreme Court in Melbourne, as he claims he was molested as a boy by the cardinal in the 1970s.
The Rise and Fall of Cardinal George Pell
Cardinal George Pell was ordained in December 1966 by Gregorio Pietro Agagianian. In 1972, Pell served as a parish priest in Ballarat, and only a couple of years after, was appointed episcopal vicar for education. He served as Bishop for the Southern Region of Melbourne (1987-1996). Pell was appointed as the seventh Archbishop of Melbourne in July 1996, and was later appointed as the eighth Archbishop of Sydney in March 2001. In 2014, Pell became the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy. Although the Vatican has confirmed Cardinal George Pell’s position as Vatican Treasurer was not renewed after the jury verdict, Pell remains a cardinal at least until the appeal is heard.