Cardinal George Pell Has Been Found Guilty Of Child Sex Offences
A jury delivered the verdict in December 2018, but it was subject to a suppression order until today.
Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of sexual abuse against two choirboys in the 1990s.
The 77-year-old is the highest-ranked Catholic in the world to be found guilty of historic sexual offences.
He was found guilty of one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act with, or in the presence of, a child aged under 16.
The offences took place at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne between 1996 and 1997. The complainants cannot be identified.
The verdict was delivered unanimously by a jury on Dec. 11, 2018, in the Victorian County Court in Melbourne, but subject to a suppression order until today.
A first trial over the charges, held earlier in 2018, resulted in a hung jury.
One of boys assaulted by Pell died in 2014 while the other, now aged in his thirties, testified at trial.
According to the ABC, which had a reporter in court for the duration of the trial, Pell sexually abused the two boys in December 1996 after they slipped away from the choir group after mass and entered the priest’s sacristy, a room to dress and prepare for a church service.
The boys were having a drink of some altar wine when they were discovered by Pell, the ABC reported.
"There was this moment where we all just froze and then he undid his trousers or his belt, like he started moving underneath his robes," the man told the court.
Pell forced the boys to perform oral sex on him, and then masturbated as he touched one of the boys.
Six weeks later, in Feb. 1997, Pell indecently assaulted one of the boys.
A strict suppression order was in place as the trial took place, due to the fact Pell was expected to face a second trial on a separate set of alleged offences.
The order dictated that details of the first trial could not be reported until the conclusion of the second. But the second trial was dropped due to a lack of evidence, and the suppression order lifted.
The man who testified at trial wrote a statement that was distributed by his lawyers outside court.
"Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life," he said in the statement.
"At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust."
The man said the process had been "stressful" and asked that his privacy and that of his young family be protected.
"I am not a spokesperson about child sexual abuse. There are many other survivors and advocates who bravely fill this role.
"I am just a regular guy working to support and protect my family as best I can."
Australia's most senior Catholic, Pell moved to Rome in 2014 to take up the role of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, the Vatican treasurer, appointed by Pope Francis.
He was removed from the Pope's inner circle – the Council of Cardinal Advisors – two days after the verdict was handed down in Dec. 2018.
A statement released on Pell's behalf said he maintained his innocence.
"Although originally the Cardinal faced allegations from a number of complainants, all charges except for those [that are] the subject of the appeal have now been either withdrawn, discharged or discontinued," the statement said.
Pell has lodged an appeal against his conviction.