Catholic Church Cardinal George Pell sentenced for sexual abuse of children

A screencap from John Pilger’s film Utopia showing soldiers at the first meeting of the intervention taskforce in the remote community of Mutitjulu

A screencap from John Pilger’s film Utopia showing soldiers at the first meeting of the intervention taskforce in the remote community of Mutitjulu

He also said Cardinal Pell would be registered as a sex offender for life.

A former senior adviser to Pope Francis, Pell showed no reaction when Chief Judge Peter Kidd handed down his sentence in a hearing broadcast live worldwide on Wednesday from Victoria's County Court in central Melbourne.

Pell was found guilty in December of sexually abusing two boys at St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996.

Pell abused the 13-year-old choir boys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury ruled last year.

He was convicted of five counts at a hearing in December, but the media were prohibited from reporting about the details of the case due to a broad gag order meant to protect the integrity of the trial.

He's the highest Catholic member to be convicted of child sexual abuse.

Pell maintains his innocence and intends to challenge the conviction in the Court of Appeal, which will be heard in June.

Asked by a reporter outside court after the sentencing whether the case against Pell amounted to a witch hunt, his lawyer Robert Richter gave a rueful smile.

He was found guilty on four charges of indecent acts and one of sexual penetration.

The 77-year-old's maximum sentence is six years, however his minimum is just three years and eight months. "Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal".

Pell will be eligible for parole after 3 years and 8 months.

Disgraced paedophile Cardinal George Pell
Disgraced paedophile Cardinal George Pell

The second episode was "brief and spontaneous" but could not be viewed as an "isolated lapse" as Pell had ample time to reflect on his previous abuse of one of the boys, the judge said.

Kidd said Pell has "effectively reformed".

"In sentencing you today, I am not sentencing the Catholic Church ... it is George Pell to be sentenced".

The second victim died of a heroin overdose a few years ago.

Though not shortening his sentence, Judge Kidd said he did impose a shorter non-parole period "in recognition in particular of your age, so as to increase the prospect of your living out the last part of your life in the community".

Pell will appeal the sentence.

The judge also took pains to note that he was sentencing Pell for the offenses on which the cardinal had been convicted - and not for the sins of the Catholic Church.

The cardinal's crimes have drawn widespread condemnation, though he has retained the support of some high-profile figures in Australia.

Statistics released in 2017 by Australia's Royal Commission into Responses to Institutional Child Sex Abuse stated that 7% of all Catholic priests in the country had abused children over the past six decades.

In testimony to the commission in March 2016, Pell said that he did not know of the sexual abuse of children in Ballarat by another priest in the 1970s until his conviction in 1993, although the commission had heard testimony from others that the priest's behavior was an open secret in the diocese.

Sonia has written a book, titled The Girl in the Locker, about their time at the orphanages in which she detailed the horrific sexual abuse, sexual slavery and physical violence they endured as young girls.

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