Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell Gets Six Years

Cardinal Pell. Six years for sexual abuse of children.
George Pell sentenced for child sex abuse - Live Coverage Catholic church news Melbourne

Cardinal George Pell, former number three in the Vatican as its financial controller, brought in by Pope Francis to sort out the Vatican's byzantine finances, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for sexual abuse of children. He will serve a minimum of three years and eight months before being eligible for parole.

Pell is by far the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted in a criminal court of the sexual abuse of minors. At the age of 77 and with health issues, it is quite possible that he may never leave prison alive.

His conviction raises serious questions about the judgement and concern of Pope Francis, who brought Pell into the Vatican as financial controller despite persistent accusations of paedophilia against him. It was as though the Pope either refused to take the accusations seriously or wasn't bothered about them.

Pope Francis' judgement was faulty in another respect too. He failed to recognise the arrogance of Pell and his propensity to create division and disharmony, as well as his arrogant tendency to self-aggrandizement.

Pell quickly made enemies in the Vatican. It has to be said though that, to his credit, he made enemies partly by intervening in the cosy financial corruption that had developed under his two predecessors, especially the senile Pope John-Paul II, where heads of departments became virtually autonomous and unaccountable, ammassing €multi-million slush funds in secretive bank accounts with virtually no records of where the money came from or what it was spent on.

Pell confiscated these accounts and transferred the money to the Vatican's official account, transforming its finances from precarious and teetering on bankruptcy, to very healthy. He also reformed the Vatican's bank which had been used to launder money for organized crime, transferring €trillions across national borders under the diplomatic immunity of the independent Vatican state.

Signs that things were not going well for Pell began to emerge with leaked stories to friendly newspapers such as L'Espresso details his extravagance and self-aggrandizement, spending half a million US$ on 'expenses' in just six months, flying everywhere at business class, furnishing a luxury apartment in Rome and paying an 'assistant' he brought from Australia a generous $21,600 a month. In contrast to Pope Francis' example of moving into humble dwellings in the Vatican, Pell rented an apartment in an upmarket district of Rome for $5100 a month and spent $87,000 on furniture.

The real story then was not so much Pell's arrogant abuse of authority to live it up, but the fact that the Vatican was leaking like a tap with no washer again, as it was under Pope Benedict XVI. Indeed, the strongest words of condemnation were reserved not for Pell's extravagance but for whoever leaked the details of it to the press.

Pell was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick's Cathedral after a 1996 Sunday mass. Details of the trial, including the conviction, were officially embargoed because Pell was originally scheduled for trial in another court on other charges of abuses carried out when he was a parish priest in Ballarat in the 1970s. However, news of the conviction was leaked outside Australia though not confirmed at the time.

The gagging order was finally lifted when a decision was taken not to proceed with the Ballarat case.

One of Pell's victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014; his second victim is now in his 30s.

Appealing for clemency, Pells defence lawyer, Robert Richter, astonished the court and those already outraged by Pell's arrogance and callous indifference to his victims, by describing the attacks as “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating.” He also claimed that grabbing one of his victims by the genitals was "fleeting" and not worthy of a prison sentence.

Judge Kidd's response to Richter was scathing:

You put to the jury only a madman would commit these offences. The jury rejected that. There are no medical records suggesting he is mad. The only inference I can make is that he thought he could get away with it. People don’t go ahead and do what he did without thinking about it. People make choices.

Sentencing Pell, Chief Judge Peter Kidd said:

In my view, the first episode in the priest's sacristy involved a brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims. The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending.

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.

He described each of the assaults for which Pell had been convicted attaching a sentence to each one and adding that these sentences should be served consecutively. He fixed the minimum parole date for 3 years and 8 months adding that release after that time would be at the sole discretion of the parole board.

Pell's defense team have announced an intention to appeal.

In contrast to the treatment of (former) Cardinal McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, USA, who was stripped of his title and defrocked despite never having stood trial in a civil court, the Vatican has refused to take action against Pell pending the outcome of the appeal. Last October, Pope Francis removed Pell, along with Cardinals Javier Errazuriz and Laurent Monsengwo, from the C-9 Council of Cardinals charged with helping the pope draft a new constitution for the Holy See’s governing structure.

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