Vatican to take no action on George Pell until appeal is over
The Vatican has said it will wait for the conclusion of the appeal process before taking action against Cardinal George Pell, who has been found guilty of child sexual abuse by a jury in Melbourne.
The outcome of the trial was “painful news that has shocked many”, Alessandro Gisotti, the Vatican press spokesman, told reporters in Vatican City.
“We reiterate the utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities,” he said. “In this respect, we now await the outcome of the appeal process, recalling that Cardinal Pell has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself to the last degree.”
Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, was on leave from his role in Rome as Vatican treasurer throughout the trial, but his term in the role expired on Sunday. He was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 as well as four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. The offences occurred in December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, months after Pell was inaugurated as archbishop of Melbourne.
He is due to be sentenced next week but may be taken into custody at a plea hearing on Wednesday, having been out on bail since the verdict and recovering from knee surgery.
“While waiting for the final judgment, we join the Australian bishops in praying for all victims of abuse, reaffirming our commitment to do everything possible so that the church is a safe house for everyone, especially for children and the most vulnerable,” Gisotti said.
“The Holy Father has confirmed the precautionary measures already in place for Cardinal George Pell since he was sent back to Australia [for the trial]. Until the definitive verdict, Cardinal Pell is forbidden, as a precautionary measure, from continuing in his ministry and from having contact with minors in any form.”
The verdict follows an unprecedented summit at the Vatican on clerical sexual abuse, which ended with a vow by Pope Francis that the Roman Catholic church would bring abusers to justice and would not cover up or underestimate abuse.
This is the first time a senior member of the clergy has been convicted for child abuse in a criminal court. “This is a deep, deep wound to the entire Catholic church,” said Robert Mickens, the Rome-based editor of the English-language edition of the Catholic daily newspaper La Croix.
“It has to be stated that the hierarchy has never done anything on its own. It has always been due to pressures that the church has come clean. People are still wondering – is [the church] being totally honest about what has happened and the culpability, especially of bishops? ”.