Australian Cardinal George Pell gets 6 years for sexually abusing choirboys

Minnie Murray
March 13, 2019

While the retreat was underway Wednesday outside Rome, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced in Australia to six years in prison for sexually abusing two youths in the 1990s.

First of all, there will be a canonical investigation held by the Vatican into Pell's past, which could lead to his defrocking but will also remind the world how the Church is often forced to play catch-up after civil judges weed out its sex offenders.

The convicted paedophile was given his sentence after a lengthy address from Chief Judge Peter Kidd, who listed out Pell's offences during a verdict that was livestreamed on television and social media.

"I consider the moral culpability of your offences high", CJ Kidd said.

Pell's fall from grace began in 2015, when a former choir boy at Melbourne's St Patrick's cathedral reached out to police alleging sexual abuse by then archbishop of Melbourne in late 1996 and 1997.

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

"Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so".

During his trial, Pell's own lawyer described the burly 1.9 metres tall cardinal as the "Darth Vader" of the Catholic Church.

Each charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

"I think we have to wait and see what happens at the appeal", Mr D'Souza said.

"It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment" the victim, who has not been identified, said though his lawer Vivian Waller.


Cathy Kezelman from the trauma recovery-focused Blue Knot Foundation says the sentence represents the personal struggle for justice of many other abuse survivors and the outcome is likely to be emotional and polarising.

Australian law prohibits the publication of sex crime victims' identities, so the father also can not be identified.

The sentencing hearing in the County Court lasted for just over an hour.

Pell's lawyer, Robert Richter, argued for a light sentence, based on Pell's age, heart problems, no prior history of offending, no physical injuries to the victims and the fact the duration of the offenses was short.

The father is considering suing Pell and the church over the abuse.

Judge Kidd rejected Pell's defence argument the crimes were committed by Pell, the man, not the archbishop.

You "may not live to be released from prison" Kidd acknowledged, as he accused the former Vatican number three of "appalling offending" and a "brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims".

The sexual abuse of children was rarely discussed in public before the 1970s, and it was not until the 1980s that the first cases of molestation by priests came to light, in the USA and Canada.

"There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other", said Kidd.

The Cardinal will be placed on the child sexual offender registry for the rest of his life.

Judge Peter Kidd cited the cardinal's advanced age and various health issues in considering his sentence.

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