Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, has been convicted of five child sex offences committed in 1996.
Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, raped a choirboy in the 1990s and molested another.
His victims were two 13-year-old boys on scholarships to the prestigious St. Kevin’s College.
The pair “nicked off” after a Sunday solemn mass in late 1996 and were caught swigging sacramental wine in the priest’s sacristy by Pell, newly installed as Archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell scolded them, exposed himself from beneath his ceremonial robes, and molested them.
A Melbourne jury in December found Pell guilty of five charges—one of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with children.
That verdict was made public on Feb. 26 after months of procedural secrecy, and the abandonment of a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s.
Key voices in the trial that convicted Cardinal George Pell of historic child sex offences landed some stinging comments in the courtroom.
The testimony of one of Pell’s victims was read to the court by Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC.
“He planted himself in the doorway and said something like ‘what are you doing here’ or ‘you’re in trouble.’
“I didn’t complain to anyone at that time. It felt like an anomaly. I was in shock and didn’t tell.
“It’s something I’ve carried for the whole of my life … it took a courage much later in life for me to even think about coming forward,” the victim’s statement read.
Pell has maintained his innocence over all allegations and has lodged an appeal of his conviction.
Pell had said in a 2016 police interview, which was read in part to the jury, that, “The allegations are a product of fantasy.
“What absolute and disgraceful rubbish.
“It’s vile and disgusting conduct, contrary to everything I hold dear.”
One of the victims, now in his 30s, brought the allegations to police after years of having struggled to understand what he’d experienced.
A month or so after he was raped by Pell, he was sexually assaulted again, pushed against a cathedral wall by the now-Cardinal who fondled his genitals.
Pell’s other victim died in 2014 in accidental circumstances.
Top defence barrister Robert Richter QC represented Pell in the trial, and during an earlier trial in which the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict.
Richter failed to convince the latest jury that the cathedral’s processes were so seamless that two boys simply could not have “nicked off” unseen.
He argued the allegations were a “far-fetched fantasy,” that Pell was always accompanied after mass and that the cumbersome robes would have prevented him revealing his genitals.
“Only a madman would attempt to rape boys in the priest’s sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass,” he told the jury.
Pell, who was physically ailing during the trial and on crutches before a double knee replacement over Christmas, remains on bail.
He’s due to return to the County Court for a plea hearing on Feb. 27.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd is due to sentence him in March.
News of Pell’s Conviction ‘Shocked’ The Catholic Bishops of Australia
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, sent out a public statement in response to Pell’s conviction on Feb. 26.
Coleridge wanted the public to know that the Bishops of Australia agree with the equality of the law for all individuals.
“We respect the Australian legal system,” said Coleridge. “The same legal system that delivered the verdict will consider the appeal that the Cardinal’s
legal team has lodged.”
Whatever the conclusion, Coleridge hopes that everyone will get what they deserve.
“Our hope, at all times, is that through this process, justice will be served,” said Coleridge.
He ended the statement on an optimistic vision for the future of the Church and the victims who have been affected.
“In the meantime, we pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones,” he said. “And we commit
ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable.”
By Amber Wilson and Karen Sweeney
Epoch Times reporter Alan Cheung contributed to this article
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