As reported by The Associated Press and NBC News, the most senior Catholic cleric ever to be convicted of child sex abuse was sentenced to 6 years in prison in Australia on Wednesday morning.
Cardinal George Pell, 77, potentially faced up to 50 years in prison after being convicted in the molestation of two choir boys while he was the archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Pell must serve a minimum of three years and eight months before he is eligible for parole.
He will spend the rest of his life as a registered sex offender.
Pell was convicted for the assault of the 13-year-old boys after he caught them swigging sacramental wine in a rear room of Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996.
The jury also found Pell guilty of indecently assaulting one of the boys in a corridor more than a month later.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd of Victoria’s County Court said in his sentencing remarks that Pell’s age and history of cardiac issues were a “significant” factor in his sentencing decision. For the same reasons, Kidd also said did not consider there to be a high risk of Pell reoffending.
During the nearly hour-long sentencing remarks, Kidd called Pell’s attack “brazen” and suggested that the cleric was “breathtakingly arrogant” in his attack on the young boys.
“There is no evidence of your remorse or contrition,” Kidd said Wednesday in court.
When the conviction became public, Pope Francis’ chief aide called it “shocking and painful.” Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin also said the Pell case “is an incentive to continue the pope’s line: Fighting against this phenomenon and paying attention to the victims,” according the Crux, a Catholic news site.
Pell and his lawyers have maintained that the cardinal is innocent and they plan to appeal his conviction at the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.
A victim who testified at Pell’s trial said after the conviction was revealed that he has experienced “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle.” In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.
#UPDATE Disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell was on Wednesday sentenced to six years in prison for the "brazen" sexual abuse of two choirboys, in what the judge lambasted as a "grave" abuse of power https://t.co/vHBBACH6DM #GeorgePell pic.twitter.com/NR8mRFL1mN
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 13, 2019
Details of the trial had been suppressed because until late February, Pell had faced a second trial in April on charges that he indecently assaulted two other boys as a young priest in the late 1970s in a public pool in his hometown of Ballarat.
Prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the court at the time that the Ballarat charges had been dropped and asked for the suppression order to be lifted. The move came days after a judge ruled out two key prosecution witnesses in the Ballarat case.
The Vatican announced that it would be launching its own investigation into the allegations after Pell’s conviction went public. A spokesman for the Vatican also said that Pell was no longer head of the Secretariat for the Economy, a post that oversees the Vatican’s finances.