Vatican places restrictions on Cardinal George Pell after sex abuse conviction

George Pell

The most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass.

Detective Sgt Chris Reed for the first time detailed to Pell allegations that he had orally raped two choirboys in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral while he was archbishop of Australia's second-largest city 20 years earlier. The victim, who has not been identified, claimed that Pell made him perform oral sex on him after catching them sneaking into the priest's sacristy in December, 1996.

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's former Treasurer, has been found guilty of child sexual assault.

News outlets were barred by a gag order from reporting on the trial and December 11 guilty verdict of 77-year-old Pell, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged and convicted of sexual offenses.

The verdict was handed down in December but could not be reported until Tuesday 26 February due to a suppression order put in place to prevent prejudicing a second trial for abuse allegations that Pell was facing concerning the abuse of minors at swimming pool in Ballarat.

Sentencing is scheduled for next week, though Pell, who has been out on bail, could be taken into custody at a plea hearing Wednesday.

The other victim died in 2014 from a heroin overdose.

The President of the Australian Bishops' Conference, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, said news of the cardinal's conviction had shocked many across Australia.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd continued Pell's bail until his sentencing hearing, but warned Pell that did not indicate he would avoid a custodial sentence.




Pell has always maintained his innocence.

Pope Francis removed Pell as a member of his informal cabinet in October.

His conviction is another hammer blow to the Church, which has struggled to convince the world it is serious about tackling widespread child abuse and paedophilia.

A five-year royal commission inquiry into child abuse said in a report issued last year that tens of thousands of children had been sexually abused in Australian churches, orphanages, sporting clubs, youth groups and schools in a "national tragedy" over many generations.

This publication ban - known as a suppression order - was unsuccessfully challenged by Australian media outlets, who argued that reporting about the case was in the public interest. Pell faces up to 50 years in prison.

Pell's lawyer Robert Richter QC said the character references speak of his client's kindness and generosity "above and beyond that of a priest" and of "a man who has a great sense of humour" who relates "to everyone "from prime ministers to street cleaners".

Around one in five Australians are Catholic, roughly five million people.

The sexual abuse of children was rarely discussed in public before the 1970s, and it was not until the 1980s that the first cases of molestation by priests came to light, in the United States and Canada.

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