- Oct 20, 2020
Australian Cardinal George Pell made his first court appearance in Melbourne early on Wednesday, fighting to clear his name from what police have described as ‘multiple’ complaints of ‘historical sexual offenses.’ In the brief hearing, Pell’s lawyer said he would “maintain his innocence” and the next hearing was set for Oct. 6.
Cardinal George Pell is due to appear in a court in the Victoria state capital Melbourne on July 26 on what Victoria Police described as multiple counts of “historical sexual assault offenses” — meaning crimes that generally occurred years ago. When police announced the charges last month, Pell vowed to fight the allegations, saying: “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said he wants to “stick with” his old friend Cardinal George Pell of Australia, who’s facing criminal charges of sexual abuse. He also said the Catholic Church needs to be more aggressive in speaking out about anti-Christian persecution – and suggested that Pope Francis may have a unique capacity to call out offenders.
Although Cardinal George Pell of Australia is the first cardinal and Vatican official to face criminal charges related to sexual abuse, he’s hardly the first Catholic bishop to be prosecuted on those grounds, and also not the first Vatican official to face a criminal indictment. A rundown of several such recent cases allows one to compare and contrast with the Pell situation, including the fact he’s not playing the immunity card.
As news breaks around the world that Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s Secretary for the Economy, has been charged criminally with historical sexual offenses, reactions have poured in from around the globe. Pell’s accusers say they’re elated, even as their attorney tries to dampen their expectations, while longtime Pell friends are emphasizing his decency and integrity.
With criminal charges of sexual abuse having been filed against Cardinal George Pell in his home country of Australia, many questions will be asked, most about the accusations and Pell’s defense. From a Vatican point of view, however, a key question is what all this means for the prospects of financial reform, and the best answer probably is, “Nothing good.”