Pell victim says 'hard to take comfort' from sentencing

Arturo Kim
March 13, 2019

Pell's age, his otherwise good character, notoriety and lifelong sex offender registration minimise his risk of re-offending, the judge said.

Pell was until late-February the Vatican treasurer and is the most senior member of the Catholic Church to be convicted and jailed for child sexual abuse.

Sentencing Pell on Wednesday, Victorian County Court Judge Peter Kidd labelled the cardinal's moral culpability as high as he outlined his two attacks on the boys over a month apart.

The 77-year-old was found guilty of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys during the late 1990s when he held the position of Archbishop of Melbourne.

The court had issued the suppression order on the trial out of concern that a second trial where Pell was charged with molesting two boys at a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s could be prejudiced by a guilty verdict in the first case.

"I am also conscious that I am sentencing at a particular time where in recent years there has been the exposure of child sexual abuse within institutional settings, including within the Catholic Church".

Pell has launched an appeal that will be heard June 5.

The former Vatican number three - who managed church finances and helped elect two popes - was sentenced in a Melbourne court on five counts, including oral rape and molestation of the boys in 1996-1997.

Pope Francis is marking his sixth anniversary as pontiff with prayer, attending a weeklong spiritual retreat while elsewhere in the world one of his cardinals is sentenced for sex abuse and a new poll finds American Catholics are increasingly questioning their faith because of the scandal.

Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months.

Pell was found guilty of five counts of historic child sex crimes.

Live: Catholic Church Cardinal George Pell sentenced for sexual abuse of children
Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in jail

"I do so without hesitation", Kidd said, noting that Pell was a figure of authority.

The broadcast will only show the judge, and not the courtroom, which is expected to be packed with advocates of abuse victims, Pell's supporters and the media.

Pell also said the Church made "catastrophic" choices by minimizing its response to, and covering up, abuse complaints.

During his trial, Pell's own lawyer described the burly 1.9 metres tall cardinal as the "Darth Vader" of the Catholic Church.

One of the victims died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2014 having never disclosed the abuse he suffered at the hands of Pell.

The sentence "makes a mockery of the concept of true accountability and is not a sentence commensurate with the crimes committed and the harm reaped", Blue Knot Foundation president Cathy Kezelman said in a statement.

The judge said there was a "real" possibility that Pell may not live to be released from prison, and that he had considered the cleric's age and health in sentencing.

He plans to appeal.

Several of Pell's other high-profile friends in Australia have leaped to his defense, questioning the jury's verdict and predicting the cardinal would be exonerated on appeal.

In the decades since, evidence of widespread abuse has emerged globally.

"I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child", he said.

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