A former Vatican City treasurer and former senior adviser to Pope Francis was sentenced to 6 years in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys.
Cardinal George Pell was sentenced Wednesday by a court in Australia after being found guilty, making him the highest ranking Vatican official ever convicted of sex abuse.
“Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance,” stated Judge Peter Kidd to Pell at the sentencing, as reported by the New York Times, adding “I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave.”
A prominent leader in the Australian Catholic Church, in 2017 Pell was charged with multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors. Pell denied the accusations.
“I'm looking forward finally to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me,” stated Pell at the time.
“These matters have been under investigation now for two years. There have been leaks to the media, there's been relentless character assassination and for more than a month, claims that a decision on whether to lay charges was imminent.”
Last December, a 12-member jury in the County Court of the State of Victoria in Melbourne found Pell guilty on five counts of sex abuse.
The Jesuit publication America Magazine described the guilty verdict as “a grave blow not only to the church in Australia but also to the Vatican and to Pope Francis,” due to Pell’s prominence.
Pell’s sentencing comes as a growing number of Catholics are seriously considering leaving the Catholic Church due to the ongoing fallout from its sex abuse scandal.
According to a newly released Gallup Poll, 37 percent of U.S. Catholics, a 15 percent increase since the last sexual abuse scandal in 2002, are currently questioning whether they should stay with the church body.
The poll results were based on telephone interviews with a sample of 581 Catholics conducted Jan. 21-Feb. 28 that had a margin of error of ±5 percentage points.
“As an indication of frustration, it seems like a pretty significant step,” said Jeff Jones, Gallup Poll senior editor, to the Washington Post regarding those thinking of leaving.
“Leaving is another one, and we don’t have good data on that. But it does give a sense of the impact [the scandal] is having. And that the impact is greater than it was in 2002."