Disgraced Catholic Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in jail for the “brazen and forceful” child sexual abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s.
A jury convicted Pell, 77, in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another while he was Archbishop of Melbourne at St Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996 and early 1997.
Melbourne County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced Pell to six years in prison, with a non-parole period of three years and eight months.
Pell will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life, Kidd told the court.
Kidd told the court Pell’s offending was a “grave” breach of trust and was carried out amid “callous indifference” to the boys’ visible and audible distress.
“The power imbalance between the victims and the church officials, including you, was stark,” Kidd said.
“I find beyond reasonable doubt that, on the specific facts of your case, there was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending.
“You had a degree of confidence victims would not complain either immediately or by running out at some later stage… Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.
“I consider your moral culpability across both episodes [of offending] to be high.”
Judge Kidd said he had taken the “profound impact” on Pell’s victims into account in the sentence.
“In my view, the first episode in the priest’s sacristy involved a brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims,” he said.
“The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending.
“There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other.”
One of Pell’s victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014, while the surviving victim is now in his 30s.
Kidd told the court Pell’s sexual abuse had had a “significant and long-lasting impact” on one of his victims, known as J.
“J has experienced a range of negative emotions which he has struggled to deal with for many years since this offending occurred,” he said.
“He has found it difficult because of issues of trust and anxiety… I take into account the profound impact your offending has had on J’s life.”
‘There is no rest for me’: Pell’s victim responds
Pell was charged in 2017 and a jury delivered the unanimous verdict on December 11 last year in Melbourne’s County Court, following a five-week trial and three days of jury deliberations. The disgraced cardinal denies all of the allegations of wrongdoing.
The victim known as J said in a statement through his lawyer, “I respect what the judge said. It was meticulous and it was considered.
“It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment. It is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome.
“I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me.”
He said “everything is overshadowed” by Pell’s forthcoming appeal, which will be heard in the Court of Appeal in June.
“I am aware of a lot of public comment by people who are critical of my evidence. But only the Judge, the jury, Pell and the legal teams have heard my evidence,” the statement said.
“A jury has unanimously accepted the truth of my evidence, Pell chose not to give evidence, the jury did not hear from him.”
— Lifeline (@LifelineAust) March 13, 2019
Pell is notorious for his anti-LGBTIQ views
Pell is the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of child sex abuse, and is notorious for his anti-LGBTIQ views over several decades.
In 1990, he said, “Homosexuality – we’re aware that it does exist. We believe such activity is wrong and we believe for the good of society it should not be encouraged.”
Pell later described homosexual activity as “a much greater health hazard than smoking” after a wreath was laid outside St Patrick’s cathedral in Melbourne in memory of gay students in Catholic schools who died of suicide.
“If [the suicides] are connected with homosexuality, it is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction,” he said.
Pell made headlines for refusing communion to gay and lesbian parishioners in Melbourne in 2002 and again in Sydney in 2007.
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve and important consequences follow from this,” Pell said in 2002.
“Our Judeo-Christian religious tradition allows men and women sexual expression within the bounds of family life, a sexuality which is life-giving.
“Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, they close the sexual act to the gift of life. These teachings are givens from our Christian point of view.”
If this has brought up issues for you, help is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline on 13 11 14, or QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au.