Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic Church official to be convicted of sex crimes, has been sentenced to six years in an Australian prison. The judge said Pell had shown no remorse for the crimes.
Disgraced Cardinal George Pell on Wednesday was sentenced to six years in an Australian prison for child sex crimes.
Pell, who once helped elect popes and ran the Vatican's finances, was convicted in December of molesting two choirboys at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s. A court order suppressing media coverage wasn't lifted until last month.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd told the Melbourne court that the sentencing reflected the crimes committed and were not directed against the Catholic Church.
"You are not to be made a scapegoat of the failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church," said Kidd, criticizing a "lynch mob mentality" among the public.
Under the terms of the sentencing, Pell must serve a minimum of 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.
Ultra-conservative German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller voiced harsh criticism to the conviction saying: "It's terrible when people's reaction is based not on truth but by the bias of their ideology. How can somebody be convicted of an unproven crime, especially when you think that many people were already in jail whose innocence was later established."
Pope Francis spent Wednesday attending a weeklong spiritual retreat with his closest advisers outside Rome. According to a report in The Catholic Herald, Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta was also at the retreat.
Pell, now 77, but 55 at the time of the crime, was convicted of forcing the 13-year-old choirboys to perform oral sex on him in the priests' sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he was archbishop. The other convictions related to improperly touching the boys. One survivor of the abuse remains alive, the other died of a heroin overdose. Neither has been named.
Going into the sordid details of the case, Kidd accused Pell of "callous indifference" and said he saw "no evidence of remorse or contrition" for the crimes. Pell has denied the allegations and will appeal the conviction in June.
In explaining the sentencing decision, the judge said Pell led an "otherwise blameless life." He took into account Pell's age and that there was no risk of re-offending.
No rest for abuse survivor
The surviving victim deemed the judge's decision "meticulous and considered."
"It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment, the moment when the sentence is handed down, the moment when justice is done," the man said in a statement read outside court by one of his lawyers. "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. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal."
Downfall of top Vatican official
The most senior Catholic official to be convicted of sexual abuse, Pell took leave in 2016 as economy minister for the Vatican to fight the charges. In December, the Vatican announced Pell had been removed as one of the pope's advisers, without commenting on the trial.
Last month, the Vatican opened an internal investigation into Pell that could result in a canonical trial and Pell's eventual expulsion from the priesthood.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by multiple sex abuse scandals across the globe, including Chile, Germany and the United States.
cw/se (AFP, dpa)