George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, has been sentenced to a total of 6 years in prison for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Pell was the archbishop of Melbourne at the time and until recently, also one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors. His sentencing will send shockwaves through the Catholic Church, which has been trying to deal with the implications and widespread damage of institutional sexual abuse.
The sentencing was issued at Melbourne County Court by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd, who spoke for over an hour before handing down the sentence for a total of five charges — one of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with children. Pell sat in the dock dressed in a black shirt and a grey blazer.
“I find beyond reasonable doubt that there was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending,” said Judge Kidd.
Judge Kidd said that the sexual abuse was “brazen and forceful” and that Pell’s offending had been “breathtakingly arrogant.”
“The acts were sexually graphic, both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during the offending,” said Judge Kidd.
“There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other.”
Pell will serve a minimum of three years and eight months before he is eligible for parole. Judge Kidd told 77-year-old Pell, who has a number of health issues, that he “may not live to be released from prison.”
In December, Pell was found guilty of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another. The incidents took place at St Patrick’s Cathedral after a Sunday mass in 1996. He was found guilty of assaulting one of the victims a second time two months later.
One of the victims died in 2014 of a drug overdose, while the other is now in his 30s.
Pell has held an illustrious career in the Catholic Church. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a Doctor of Philosophy degree, Pell went on to become the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Archbishop of Sydney. He was the Vatican’s treasurer up until late February and is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic church to be convicted of child sexual abuse.
Pell plans to challenge Judge Kidd’s decision the Court of Appeal in June, according to 9News.
Following the sentencing, the surviving Pell victim said in a statement shared with media: “It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment. The moment when justice is done. It is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome. I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child, however there is no rest for me.”
The victim added: “Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.” See the full statement below:
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