AUSTRALIA’S most senior Roman Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, has been sentenced to six years in prison for the sexual abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s when he was RC Archbishop of Melbourne (News, 1 March, 7 July 2017). He will have to serve three years and eight months before he is eligible for parole.
In his sentencing remarks in the Victorian County Court on Wednesday, Judge Peter Kidd said that he had imposed a shorter non-parole period to increase the prospect that the 77-year-old would live out the last part of his life in the community.
Cardinal Pell, who has denied the charges, has appealed his conviction; the Court of Appeal will hear the case on 5 June.
The judge, criticising what he described as the “witch hunt” that had followed Cardinal Pell’s conviction, said that he should not be made a scapegoat for the Church’s failings.
He was, however, severe in his criticisms of Cardinal Pell’s behaviour, saying that he had acted with “callous indifference”. Pell’s conduct had been “permeated by staggering arrogance”, his “moral culpability” was high, and the brazenness of his conduct had been indicative of his sense of power, Judge Kidd said.
Cardinal Pell’s attacks on the two 13-year-olds in the cathedral sacristy were opportunistic, sexually graphic, and had continued even though both boys were visibly and audibly distressed, he said.
Cardinal Pell will serve his sentence in protection. He has also had to sign the Victorian Register of Sex Offenders, where he will remain listed for life.
The surviving choirboy, who gave testimony in the trial, has released a statement saying that it was hard for him to take comfort from the sentence because “everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.”
The second choirboy died from an accidental heroin overdose in 2014. His father, who was present in the court when the sentence was handed down, has said that the sentence was insufficient.