Cardinal George Pell convicted of child sexual abuse by Australian court – Hilary Whiteman

George Pell

Hilary WhitemanCardinal Pell’s conviction follows a damning report by a royal commission into institutional child abuse in Australia, which alleged more than 1,800 Catholic priests, brothers, lay people, and religious sisters across the country had assaulted thousands of children over the past 65 years. –  Hilary Whiteman

Cardinal George Pell has joined the ranks of other shamed Catholic priests who betrayed the trust of children who believed they were men of God.

The Vatican treasurer, now a convicted pedophile, was a close adviser to the Pope, personally appointed by Francis as the Vatican’s minister of Economy and, until October, was a member of the Pope’s Council of nine advisers.

As a victim of sex abuse, his accuser can’t be named under Australian law, but his testimony will be felt at the very heart of the Vatican, which for decades has been accused of ignoring, covering up and denying sex abuse was committed within its ranks.

In December, a jury found Pell abused two choirboys in the priest’s sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne one Sunday in the 1990s, when Pell was the city’s archbishop.

Only one victim is alive to tell his story, having kept his abuse secret for decades. The second boy died of a drug overdose, apparently having never divulged what had happened to him.

The existence of the trial couldn’t be revealed until now due to an Australian suppression order. Pell’s sentencing hearing is due to begin on Wednesday.

The conviction is the result of years of police work, including a special task force set up to solely investigate claims against the cardinal.

It also follows a damning report by a royal commission into institutional child abuse in Australia, which alleged more than 1,800 Catholic priests, brothers, lay people, and religious sisters across the country had assaulted thousands of children over the past 65 years.

The Vatican has yet to respond to the verdict. On Tuesday Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said in a statement in Rome the conviction had “shocked” many around the world.

“We respect the Australian legal system. The same legal system that delivered the verdict will now consider the appeal that the cardinal’s legal team has lodged. Our hope at all times is that through this process justice will be served,” he said.

Pell’s conviction comes amid attempts by the Vatican to begin making amends for decades of abuse by priests across the world.

Over the past week, the Vatican held a historic summit on sexual abuse by clergy. Speaking at the last day on Sunday, Pope Francis described pedophile priests as “tools of Satan.” – CNN, 26 February 2019

» Hilary Whiteman is a senior editor at CNN Digital.

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