SYDNEY - Convicted child abuser Cardinal George Pell, a former senior adviser to the Pope, has been jailed for six years for abusing two altar boys in Australia. He is the most senior Catholic official to be convicted of such offenses. He has appealed against his conviction, arguing his trial had a "fundamental irregularity.”
Cardinal George Pell was told he had shown ‘breath-taking arrogance’ and a ‘callous indifference’ to his victims when he sexually assaulted them at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s. Pell was the city’s archbishop at the time, and was unanimously found guilty by a jury last December, a decision that could not be reported until last month for legal reasons.
He has been sent to prison for six years, but could be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.
The chief judge, Peter Kidd, said the cardinal should not be a scapegoat for the failings of the Catholic Church, which is facing a global child abuse crisis. The conviction of a man who was Australia’s most powerful cleric has sent shock waves through the Church, where Pell was one of Pope Francis's closest advisers and a former Vatican treasurer.
The 77-year-old Australian cleric had been seen as the Church's third most powerful official.
Judge Kidd said his crimes deserved a significant punishment.
“While it is a matter of speculation as to how long you will live, the fact is you are of advanced years and are entering the last phase of your life. Like anyone in their late 70s your health will decline in time. I am conscious that the term of imprisonment which I am about to impose upon you carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison,” Kidd said.
Pell has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. His appeal against his conviction is expected to begin in early June.
His legal team has argued that the jury's verdict was "unreasonable" because it relied too heavily on the evidence of one person.
Senior bishops from around the world gathered in Rome last month for an unprecedented summit into the global child abuse scandal.