Cardinal George Pell Found Guilty of Sexual Abuse

Pell claimed innocence from all accusations

The Vatican hierarchy suffered another blow after Cardinal George Pell, the top financial adviser to Pope Francis and Vatican economy minister, was convicted of sexually abusing two choirboys. This conviction makes Pell the highest Roman Catholic leader to be indicted.

Cardinal Pell is guilty of forcing oral sex on a 13-year-old boy after he conducted Mass in Melbourne’s St. Patrick Cathedral. The incident took place in the sacristy of the church. Pell was the Archbishop of Melbourne and 55-years-old at that time. The assault dates back to 1996. Another conviction was of an assault where he grabbed the genitals of a boy. The sentencing proceedings will start on February 27.

Pell, 77-years-old, was sentenced in December, but a judge stopped the media from publishing any news about the verdict. The reason cited is that any coverage may influence the jury during the second trial. The judge canceled the gag order on February 25, saying that since the second trial is out of the works, there is no need to restrict the media.

The convictions were confirmed in the same week as Francis wrapped up his extraordinary summit where Catholic leaders from all over the world were invited to Rome. They were tutored on how to stop sexual abuse by the clergy. The invitees were also taught how to protect the vulnerable from priests prone to committing sexual crimes.

Pell claimed to be innocent throughout the proceedings. He described all the accusations against him as vile and of disgusting conduct, and such behavior goes against his personal beliefs. Robert Richer, Pell’s lawyer, informed the jury that only a person of unsound mind would abuse boys at great personal risk in a public place. He said such allegations can only be described as “laughable” and that Pell was able to expose himself was a difficult proposition due to the elaborate clothes worn during a church event. Both Richer and Peter Kidd, the Chief Judge asked the jury comprising four women and eight men not to punish the archbishop for the faults ascribed to the Catholic Church. Judge Kidd told the jury not to scapegoat Cardinal Pell.

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