Cardinal George Pell found guilty of sexual abuse

Photo of Cardinal George Pell wearing a gret suit jacket over a black shirt as he leaves Victoria county court in Melbourne surrounded by photographers

Cardinal George Pell, who has said that homosexuality is “wrong,” has been found guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys.

The 77-year-old former Vatican treasurer committed these sexual offences in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury found in December. He had pleaded not guilty, according to BBC News.

Pell is due to face sentence hearings on Wednesday (February 27). The verdict was reached last year at the County Court of Victoria, but could not be reported until now for legal reasons.

Cardinal George Pell leaves the County Court of Victoria court after prosecutors decided not to proceed with a second trial on alleged historical child sexual offences in Melbourne on February 26, 2019. - Australian Cardinal George Pell, who helped elect popes and ran the Vatican's finances, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two choirboys, becoming the most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex crimes.

The verdict on the case of Cardinal George Pell was reached last year, but could not be reported until now for legal reasons. (CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty)

After a first jury failed to reach a decision, a second trial resulted in the Australian being unanimously convicted.

He was found guilty on one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and on four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.

Pell is the most senior official in the Catholic Church to be convicted of a sexual offence.

During his trial, the court reportedly heard how Pell told his teenage victims that they were in trouble for drinking communion wine before forcing them into indecent acts.

He abused one of the boys again in 1997.

The jury heard testimony from one of Pell’s victims. The other died from a drug overdose in 2014.

“Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life.”

— A victim of Cardinal George Pell

Pell’s surviving victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told BBC News that the case had been stressful and was “not over yet.”

He said he had been through “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle” due to Pell’s abuse.

“Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life,” he added.

A statement issued on behalf of Pell on Tuesday (February 26) read: “Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so.”

It added that Pell would await the outcome of his appeal.

News of the verdict has emerged days after Pope Francis held a four-day Vatican City summit to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse of children.

Cardinal George Pell has made numerous anti-gay comments

Pell has a long history of anti-gay statements.

In 1990, he said: “Homosexuality—we’re aware that it does exist. We believe such activity is wrong and we believe for the good of society it should not be encouraged,” according to Australian outlet ABC News.

“Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

— Cardinal George Pell

He added: “There are many smorgasbord Catholics who choose a bit of this and that… my business as bishop is to proclaim the whole of the message.”

When a wreath was laid outside St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in memory of the gay students at Catholic schools who had died by suicide, he once again condemned homosexuality, according to The Guardian.

“If they are connected with homosexuality, it is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction,” he said.

“Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”

When he was the Archbishop of Sydney in 2006, Pell responded to moves towards adoption being legalised for same-sex parents by saying that children should have a “mother and father.”

He said the church would present “sociological findings” to prove their claims and would “never anticipate” Christian adoption agencies supporting the law.

In 2007, Pell said gay people did not deserve the same protections against discrimination as racial minorities.

He claimed: “Whatever issues of basic justice remain to be addressed, I am not sure that it is at all true to say that homosexuals today suffer the same sort of legal and civil disadvantage which blacks in the United States and elsewhere suffered 40 years ago and, to some extent, still suffer.”