A secret trial was revealed convicting one of the most powerful men in the Roman Catholic Church with historical sexual offense charges last December.
The existence of the sexual abuse trial of Cardinal George Pell, Vatican Treasurer and a close adviser to Pope Francis, only surfaced Tuesday because of a ban from the court to disclose the details of the trial to the media; Chief Judge Peter Kidd lifted the coverage ban that started in November 2018.
Cardinal Pell was convicted with sexual penetration of a child and four counts of an indecent act with or in the presence of a Child for the incidents that happened in the 1990s. Pell is the most senior Vatican official to be convicted of sexual abuse.
The revelation of the trial and conviction of Cardinal Pell came days after the Vatican held an unprecedented summit to address the sexual abuse committed by clergy called upon by Pope Francis last February 20-24, 2019.
According to court documents, the assault happened to the victim and another boy in Melbourne’s historic St. Patrick Cathedral, when the Cardinal forced one choirboy to do oral sex on him. He also performed several other indecent activities to other choir boys, who he caught drinking wine in his sacristy, a small room at the back of the Church.
One of the victims later died of a drug overdose, while the other lived to tell his story that has caused him to experience ‘shame, loneliness, (and) depression.’
The victim was not identified in the court documents following an Australian law governing sexual abuse victims. Another Australian legislation allowed the judge to order a ban from media coverage to not influence future juries.
The ban was lifted after the prosecutors of the case withdraw other charges of sexual assault and indecent acts against Pell following the conviction.
In December 2018, the Cardinal was removed from his post in the Vatican for ‘reasons of advancing age.’
‘TOO SHOCKED AND SCARED’
The case against Pell is strongly banked on testimony by one who accused the priest of performing oral sex with him and groping another boy’s genitalia after one Sunday mass at Melbourne’s St. Patrick Cathedral.
For nearly 20 years, the accuser said that he carried the burden and the trauma of what happened because he was ‘too shocked and scared’ to disclose what happened.
According to the testimony through a video link to the court, the attack span across six minutes after a Sunday mass and while parishioners are gathered outside the church.
The victim said that the Cardinal caught him and another choir boy drinking wine in the sacristy. Pell then pulled his robe aside and shown his genitalia to the boys forcing the victim to put it in his mouth. The priest then instructed another boy to take off his pants as the priest touch his private parts while he masturbated.
One month later, the victim alleged that the then-Archbishop of Melbourne pushed him to a wall and touched his genitalia.
“I didn’t tell anyone at the time because I didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I didn’t want to rock the boat with my family, my schooling, my life … I had no intention back then of telling anyone ever,” said the victim’s testimony as the Crown prosecutor Gibson read it to the court.
‘PRODUCT OF A FANTASY’
The Cardinal has ever since denied the allegations against him and his lawyer, Richter, has strongly argued against the testimony of the victim saying that it is ‘an embellishment on a fantasy.’
Richter dismissed the testimony of the victim, arguing that the Robe of the Cardinal cannot be loosened in a way described in the affidavit. He further added that the crime was ‘impossible to happen’ in a manner the victim described because the boys could just run off and that Pell was outside the church talking to the parishioners during the time the crime was said to have been committed.
Cardinal George Pell did not take the stand for his defense, but instead, a video of his meeting with the investigators in 2016 was played in the court.
In the video, Pell said the charges were “the products of fantasy.” When asked whether he’d forced a boy to perform oral sex he said it was a “deranged falsehood.”
“What a load of absolute and disgraceful rubbish. Completely false. Madness,” he told detectives.
Pell was ‘shocked’ of the guilty verdict after it was reached only after three and a half days of deliberation.
Pell is scheduled for a sentencing hearing in a separate date in March. /apr