He claims he is the victim of character assassination. Australia has reason to think he committed multiple sexual assaults a long time back. Now the world waits for the truth to come out.
Cardinal George Pell, originally from Ballarat, Australia, had a brief, administrative hearing Wednesday in Melbourne. He said nothing. But the media gathered in force to capture the powerful imagery of a Cardinal in court.
Pope Francis has applauded Pell, his treasurer, for facing the charges and granted him leave to do so. Pell, who is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged with sex abuse, is known as an ultra conservative on social issues, but has been all for transparency when it comes to church finances.
His case is awkward for Pope Francis, who has vowed zero tolerance for sex abuse.
Cardinal Pell has maintained his innocence and has said in the past that he finds the whole idea of sex abuse “abhorrent.”
But he has gone from being under suspicion of helping to cover up the problem in Australia, or at least, not doing enough to answer complaints, to being accused of being an abuser himself.
The Pope pointed out, in a statement that “Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors.”
But as the Pontiff promoted Pell when he was already under the spotlight, he may himself have to answer accusations of looking the other way.
The details of Pell’s case have not been released, but his hometown has been in the eye of the sex abuse storm. Ballarat is among the places citing the worst cases of sex abuse by church clerics, with dozens of victims having committed suicide over the years.
Worldwide, there have been 4,444 alleged incidents of child sexual abuse between 1980 and 2015, with the average age of female victims being 10 ½ years of age, and boys, 11 ½.
“Whatever the outcome of the case against Pell,” Anne Barrett Doyle of an organization called Bishop Accountability said has been quoted as saying, “his presence today in a secular courtroom marks the victory of transparency over secrecy, and the rule of law over the Vatican’s failed strategy of containment.”
Pell, 76, was questioned last year by Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via video link as he was not healthy enough to travel.
But for his trial, he is back home now. Pell claims he is looking forward to his day in court, to clear his name. The trial promises to be a lengthy one. His next appearance will be October 6th.