Cardinal George Pell

The high-ranking church official served as one of the Pope’s closest advisers; Vatican receives the news with ‘regret’

One of the senior Vatican officials and trusted advisers of the Pope has been charged with “multiple charges of historic sexual offenses” by the Australian police. Cardinal George Pell may just be one of the highest-ranking clerics of the Roman Catholic Church to face charges of multiple sexual offenses.

Naturally, Pell has refused to accept the charges, insisting that they are completely baseless and the whole issue is an attempt to malign his name. “I repeat that I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me,” Pell said, arguing that the accusations were an attempt to ruin his character. However, this is not the first time that Pell has been charged of being involved in such matters.

In the past he has been found guilty of shielding clerics involved in sexual scandals and for not handling cases and complaints of sexual harassment in the right manner. It is also known that he himself has abused children during his early life as a priest. Despite this, he rose to become one of the Vatican’s most powerful clerics. Pope Francis himself invited him to the Vatican three years ago to help the Church deal with the financial scandals that had erupted. His arrest by the Australian police will be a huge blow to an institution that has already been reeling under the disastrous sandals that have been escalating off late.

Pell has taken a leave of absence from the Vatican to deal with the case, saying, “I am looking forward finally to having my day in court.” “We must avoid a media verdict, a verdict based on gossip”, the Pope had said last year, when issues related to the Cardinal had just started to reach a head, adding, “It's in the hands of the justice system and one cannot judge before simply the justice system. After the justice system speaks, I will speak.” Now, the Vatican simply said that it has received the news with great regret. The Pope appreciated the honesty of Cardinal Pell during his three years of work and thanked him for his “energetic dedication to the reforms” of the Vatican administration.

The Pope’s tepid response has drawn criticism from all corners, including from Marie Collins, a previous abuse survivor and former member of a papal panel created to deal with child abuse by the Church. Collins had resigned because of “shameful resistance” by the Church to her efforts. 

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