George Pell is not to be seen as a “scapegoat” for broader wrongdoings of the Catholic Church, says a judge who is preparing to sentence the cardinal for sexually abusing two choirboys.
Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd on Wednesday started his sentencing of Pell, three months after the cardinal was found guilty of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick’s Cathedral after a Sunday mass.
“You are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church,” Judge Kidd said.
“Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy in the Catholic church.”
Pell, who was until late-February the Vatican’s treasurer, is the highest-ranking Catholic in the world to be convicted of child sexual abuse.
He has been told to expect “significant” prison time.
Listen to The Quicky explore the conviction of Cardinal George Pell. Post continues after audio.
“I am not sitting in judgment of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church,” Judge Kidd added.
Huge public interest in the sentence prompted the judge to permit a camera in court to broadcast his remarks live globally.
The courtroom was packed with abuse survivors who have their own interest in the result, beyond that of Pell’s surviving victim, now aged in his 30s.
He was orally raped by Pell in the priest’s sacristy after a Sunday mass in December 1996, forced to watch as Pell molested his 13-year-old friend, and then molested again by Pell a month later.
The other boy died in 2014.
Earlier campaigner against child sexual abuse, Leonie Sheedy, expressed her hope for justice.
“I hope that justice prevails and that Mr George Pell is treated like every other pedophile and sex offender in this state and he is incarcerated for a sentence that is appropriate to the crime that he committed,” Ms Sheedy told 3AW radio.
Pell, 77, was convicted in December of one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child. Each offence carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.
Senior crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC foreshadowed in a pre-sentence hearing Pell would spend “significant time” in prison, including likely long periods in lockdown because of his high profile.