Cardinal George Pell sentenced to 6 years for child sex crimes
Judge described acts as 'degrading' but took account of age
- byAlice Murphy
Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to 6 years in jail.
Unusually, TV cameras were allowed inside Melbourne County Court on March 13. to show the ruling for Pell's serious child sex crimes - a case that has been of huge global interest.
The judge, Peter Kidd, described the 77-year-old as 'brazen' in his summing up - telling him 'you were confident your victims would not complain'.
'Theoffending which the jury has foundyou have engaged in was, on anyview, breathtakingly arrogant,' the judge told Pell - saying he had committed a 'grave abuse of his power'.
Last month, Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 as well as four charges of an indecent act with a minor.
He is the most senior Catholic priest ever convicted of child sex crimes.
The criminal offences involving two choirboys - who the judge referred to as 'R' and 'J' - occurred between December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick's Cathedral, months after Pell was inaugurated as archbishop of Melbourne's Catholic church.
Judge Kidd, told Pell he had exhibited 'staggering arrogance' and he had 'high moral culpability'.
'You are a figure of significant interest to those in the Catholic faith,' he said.
'In some sections of the community you are a publicly vilified figure.'
In summing up, the judge described the acts as 'degrading and humiliating'.
'The acts were sexuallygraphic,' he told the court.
'Both victims were visiblyand audibly distressed during thisoffending. The obvious distress andobjections of your victims is relevant to my assessment of theimpact of your offending on J and R.
'There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation thateach of your victims must have feltin knowing that their abuse had beenwitnessed by the other.
'In relationto charge one, this indecent actagainst R, in relation to chargeone, which is the indecent actagainst R, has, in my view, nastyelement to it.
'Holding him by thehead while placing the penis inclose proximity to his head. Whilethere was sexual physical contact,the conduct here must have beenparticularly confronting anddebasing.'
Chief Judge Kidd said he rejected any inference Pell’s mental functioning was 'impaired or diminished' when he undertook the acts.
Judge Kidd sums up
The judge told Pell that, as Archbishop, he occupied the 'most senior leadership official and religiousposition at St Patrick's Cathedralon the days in question'.
Pell committed the acts while dressed in his robes.
'There was a large body of evidence that the environment at St Patrick's Cathedral was hierarchical,structured, and subject to strictdiscipline,' the judge said.
'Authority matteredwithin the Cathedral, and was verylargely respected. You were a pillarof St Patrick's community by virtueof your role as Archbishop. Victim Jgave evidence that the choirboyswere expected to show reverence inyour presence. The evidence showsthat you were profoundly revered,Cardinal Pell, which imbued you withand legitimised your authority.
'AsArchbishop, you did have arelationship of approval in relationto the choirboys. In part, thechoirboys were performing to pleaseyou as Archbishop. There wasevidence that you would, from timeto time, visit the robing room tocongratulate the boys on theirsinging. The choirboys were theleast powerful and the mostsubordinate individuals at theCathedral.
'The victims themselveswere 13 years of age. The powerimbalance between the victims andall the senior church leaders orofficials, yourself included, wasstark.
'The victims' presenceand role within the choir at theand role within the choir at thecathedral were intimately part oftheir schooling. They were requiredto attend choir as part of theirscholarship conditions. Their rolein the choir was effectively part oftheir schooling. You understood thislink, as did every cathedralofficial.
'In my view, you did notsay anything to your victims by wayof threats to secure their silence,because you clearly felt that youdid not need to,' the judge said.
WATCH: Child sex abuse victim speaks out after Cardinal George Pell conviction
The judge said he was conscious that Pell was nearing the end of his life.
'Iam conscious that the term ofimprisonment, which I am about toimpose upon you, carries with it areal, as distinct from theoretical possibility that you may not live tobe released from prison,' he said, acknowledging Pell was suffering from congestive heart failure.
'Facing jailat your age in these circumstancesmust be an awful state of affairsfor you,' he said.
The judge acknowledged that Pell had 'reformed' and was no longer 'a risk to the community'.
Judge Kidd said the message which thecourts send to would-be child sexualoffenders 'must be unequivocal'.
'Theymust be dissuaded, whether theoffending is planned, or whether itis the result of aspur-of-the-moment decision,' he said.
Days before Pell's February conviction Pope Francis quietly removed him from the Pontiff's Council of Advisers, per the Guardian.
Once the verdict was made public, the Vatican issued a statement confirming the cleric was no longer its Secretariat for the Economy, the third most powerful position in the religious enclave.
Speaking of the court's decision, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said: "This is painful news that, as we are well aware, has shocked many people, not only in Australia.
"We reiterate the utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities. In the name of this respect, we now await the outcome of the appeal process."
Alice MurphyAlice Murphy is a freelance journalist and self-professed news addict. Originally from Ireland, Alice is on a mission to visit every country in the world (telling stories along the way). She is most commonly found eating sushi, drinking strong coffee and reading horoscopes.
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