• Jack Ward

Once an Archbishop, now a sex offender

Updated: 5 days ago

A man with power. A man with trust. A man who preached a religion that emphasises voluntary support for the sick and the poor. A man who was once an Archbishop, is now a registered sex offender.

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and eight months, after sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in 1996.

The two boys would have been discovering themselves, navigating the struggles associated with adolescence and enjoying life with friends and family. On one Sunday at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, their lives were changed forever.

Cardinal George Pell makes his way to the court in Melbourne on February 27, 2019 PHOTO: Con Chronis/AFP

Cardinal Pell had finished preaching to worshippers and the soon to be victims had performed their choir duties at a Sunday mass. Pell then caught the boys drinking alter wine in the priest’s sacristy and said something like, “you’re in trouble,” according to the living victim.

He orally raped one and molested the other, ignoring the victims whimpering and cries. The crimes the cardinal has been found guilty of are sickening, especially considering a protocol was set up by him to deal with complaints of child sexual abuse around the same time he committed these contradicting offences.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd delivered his sentence to the County Court on Wednesday morning as an audience across the globe watched on. TV cameras were unable to broadcast Pell’s reaction nor the galleries, instead they were continuously focused on the judge.

Judge Kidd spoke for over an hour, stating that Pell had been “breathtakingly arrogant” in his offending.

The judge acknowledged that the disgraced cardinal may never live to be released, “facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you.”

Students at Ararat College stopped to watch the decision, hoping that a man found guilty of such repulsive crimes would be punished accordingly. Journalism students – including myself – were intensely watching the TV screen for over an hour, muting the broadcast when the judge described the graphic details.

The once Archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney stood as the judge reached his verdict. This would be a moment to cause either celebration or calls of injustice.

PHOTO: Paul Miller/EPA

Mixed emotions were expressed. Some felt the sentence adequate, others thought it was soft.

The cardinal continues to deny the charges but a jury underwent three days of deliberation in December to find him guilty of all four– one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act with, or in the presence of, a child.

This man is now a convicted sex offender who may never live on the outside again. Six years imprisonment may be justice for some, it may not be for others. I have a feeling that this is far from the last we will hear about the cardinal.

Pell returned to the Melbourne Assessment Prison in West Melbourne yesterday in the back of a prison van. Corrections Victoria will now decide where he will begin to serve his sentence.

Pell and his team have appealed his conviction, to be heard in the Court of Appeal over two days in June.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has also initiated its own investigation of the charges against Pell which could lead to the cardinal being defrocked.

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