Faith

Vatican Cardinal George Pell Hit With Multiple Sexual Offense Charges

FILE - In this July 15, 2008, file photo, Cardinal George Pell walks onto the stage for the opening mass for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. Australian police charged a top Vatican cardinal on Thursday, June 29, 2017, with multiple counts of historical sexual assault offenses, a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

Australian police on Thursday charged Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic official, with multiple historic sexual assault offenses.

Via Fox News:

Cardinal George Pell, the chief financial adviser for Pope Francis, is now the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged as part of the church’s sexual abuse scandal. He is the third most powerful figure in the Vatican behind the Pope.

Specific details about the multiple complaints brought against Pell were not detailed by Victoria State Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton.

“The charges were today served on Cardinal Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne and they have been lodged also at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offences,” Patton said, according to news.com.au.

“Historic sexual offenses,” references offenses that generally occurred some time ago.

The Victoria Police’s full statement can be read here.

Complaints against Pell, 76,  include allegations that he abused as many as 10 minors by “both grooming and opportunity.” The ages of his accusers now range from their late 20s to early 50s according to news.com.au. More details about the allegations are here. 

Pell has repeatedly denied the allegations, “emphatically and unequivocally” rejecting all charges of sexual abuse against him. He is now based in the Vatican, where he is serving as prefect of the secretariat of the economy.  The cardinal is slated to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a filing hearing on July 18.

A damning Australian 60 Minutes episode from 2002 called, “The Lies of George Pell” tells the story of a victim of clerical sexual abuse who claimed that when he confided in then-Bishop Pell about the abuse, he was told to keep quiet about it.

https://youtu.be/ajWT4BERoHc

For an alternative view, an Australian longtime Pell-watcher penned a passionate defense of the prelate in a First Things column earlier this month, saying she didn’t believe the allegations.  Philippa Martyr, an “Australian historian, writer, and commentator,” argued that over the years, for whatever reason, “Pell increasingly became a target for the Australian media.”

He had made errors of judgement that came back to haunt him, such as publicly accompanying serial offender Fr Gerard Ridsdale to court. Pell has never been a man of smooth words, and some victims have felt he spoke to them unjustly and roughly, and did not listen, and did not believe them. Pell has attempted to make up for this, with some success; his recent meeting with victims in Rome reduced him to tears.

As I say, I have been watching George Pell for years. He has both delighted and exasperated me, in print, on television, and in person. But at no point has he struck me as a man with something to hide. George Pell is probably the least secretive man in the Australian Catholic hierarchy. What you see is what you get—I have seen him be abrupt, tender, unkind, generous, loving, impatient, argumentative, devout, gentle, and angry. In more recent years I have seen him moving slowly because of arthritic pain, and looking breathless and worn. I have seen all these sides of George Pell, and they simply mean that he is a flawed human being like the rest of us.

I don’t believe he is guilty of sexual offenses, but my opinion on this doesn’t matter. What I do observe is the way in which his name has become an insult to be spat out by mainstream media commentators, and the way in which he is now depicted as a sort of giant evil balloon of conservative morality and hypocrisy. These reactions are vastly out of proportion to what George Pell has publicly said and done in his lifetime. They are also mostly made by people who would have difficulty in picking George Pell out of a group photograph.

Whatever the truth is, Cardinal Pell and all victims of clerical abuse deserve our prayers.