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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Cardinal George Pell convicted of child sex abuse against two choirboys

Pope Francis’s top financial adviser and the Vatican’s economy minister is the most senior Catholic to be charged

Cardinal George Pell leaves the Victoria County Court in Melbourne, Australia. EPA
Cardinal George Pell leaves the Victoria County Court in Melbourne, Australia. EPA

The most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass.

The verdict dealt a blow to the Catholic hierarchy’s credibility after a year of global revelations of abuse and cover-ups.

Cardinal George Pell, 77, Pope Francis’s top financial adviser and the Vatican’s economy minister, bowed his head but then regained his composure as a jury delivered unanimous verdicts in Australia’s County Court of Victoria on December 11 after two days of deliberation.

The court had until yesterday forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

The convictions were confirmed the same week that Pope Francis concluded his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

The jury convicted Pell of abusing two 13-year-old boys whom he had caught drinking sacramental wine in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. It also found Pell guilty of assaulting one of the boys about a month later. He faces a maximum 50-year prison term after a sentencing hearing that begins today. He is expected to appeal.

Pell maintained his innocence throughout the trial, describing the accusations as “vile and disgusting” that went against everything he believed in.

One of Pell’s victim died of a heroin overdose in 2014 without ever complaining of the abuse, and even denying to his suspicious mother that he had been molested while he was part of the church choir.

Neither of the boys can be identified.

The surviving complainant testified that he feared that making such accusations against a powerful church man would cost him his place in the choir and with it his college scholarship.

Pell did not give evidence at his trial. But the jury saw a video recording of an interview he gave Australian detectives in Rome in 2016.

The cardinal grimaced, appeared incredulous, distressed, waved his arms over his head and muttered to himself as the detectives detailed the accusations that his victim had levelled against him a year earlier.

Updated: February 26, 2019 07:44 PM

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