Update Aug. 21, 2019: This post has been updated with a link to a new story about the results of Pell's appeal.
Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday after he was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in 1996 and 1997.
Pell, who was once the third most powerful man at the Vatican, is now the highest ranking official within the Catholic Church to be sentenced for committing sexual abuse.
The five convictions carried a maximum possible sentence of ten years each, but the judge, Peter Kidd, was lenient because of Pell's age (Pell is 77 years-old). "I am conscious that the term of imprisonment, which I am about to impose upon you, carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison," Judge Kidd told Pell. So instead of getting 50 years in prison, Pell only got a six year sentence.
Some were outraged at Kidd's leniency.
Outside the court, a 52-year-old survivor of clerical abuse who goes by the alias 'Michael Advocate' told reporters, "Part of what went on today was just rot, absolutely rubbish. It's just insulting to the victims and it's insulting to all the other survivors like myself. There's a disconnect between the sentence that is regularly handed out to the pedophile and the lifelong damage that is done to the victim."
Pell was found guilty of abusing two choirboys after a mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in December, 1996. Pell found the boys drinking wine in a changing room. Pell forced one of the boys to perform oral sex on him while he fondled the other. Later, in February 1997, he again assaulted one of the boys in the cathedral.
Only one of the victims is alive today and testified. The other victim died of a heroin overdose several years ago.
After Pell was first found guilty, his lawyer, Robert Richter, had the gall to say to the judge that the assault was a "plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating."
That is exactly the kind of mind-numbingly horrible thing you would expect to be said by a truly horrible person who willingly defends a sexual predator.
Unsurprisingly, Richter had to be escorted by police when he left the courthouse on Wednesday. A mob of activists were there screaming at him.
As the number of sexual abuse cases levied against the church continues to grow, it comes as no surprise that Australians are leaving the church, even in Pell's traditionally Catholic hometown, Ballarat.
Pell and his legal team already have an appeal in the works, the hearing for which was set unusually quickly. The appeal will be heard by the court June 5th and 6th. One of the main factors in Pell's argument for his appeal is what was cited as a “fundamental irregularity” in his trial because he was not able to enter a "not guilty" plea in front of the jury.
If Pell and his legal team are successful (update: they were not) in the appeal hearing, he could potentially only serve a few months in prison, rather than six years. If the appeal fails, Pell will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.
Cases like Pell's continue to progress through the courts, and as more stories like this one come under public scrutiny, it will be of interest to see what remains of the Catholic Church.
My earlier posts on Pell can be found here: May 2, 2018, Dec. 14, 2018, Feb. 26, 2019, and Aug. 21, 2019.