Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys, becoming the most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex crimes. An Australian jury unanimously found Pell guilty in December on one count of sexual abuse and four counts of indecent assault against two boys at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s.
Pell, now aged 77, was accused of cornering the boys — then aged 12 and 13 in the cathedral’s sacristy following Sunday mass and forcing them to perform a sex act on him. “Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so,” said a statement issued by his lawyers, who added that they had lodged an appeal against the conviction. The statement noted that numerous allegations and other charges against Pell had already been withdrawn or discharged.
Of the two choirboys that Pell was found to have assaulted, one died in 2014 of a drug overdose that his family blamed on the trauma he suffered. The second victim said in a statement issued by his lawyer Tuesday that the ongoing legal process was stressful and “not over yet”. “Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle,” said the man, who has not been publicly identified.
“At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.” There was no immediate reaction from the Vatican but Pell maintained his innocence.