The senior Catholic in Australia is facing several sexual assault charges going back years, according to the Victoria State police in Australia.
The media reported this week that Cardinal George Pell, who is the chief financial adviser for the Pope, is the top ranking Vatican official to ever face a charge as part of the Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandal that has gone on for years. Pell is the third most powerful cardinal behind Pope Francis.
According to Victoria State Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton, the charges that were served in Melbourne recently have been filed with the Melbourne Magistrates Court. He noted that the cardinal is facing ‘historic sexual offenses,’ which means that the alleged offenses occurred some time in the past.
It was alleged in the past that Pell engaged in sexual abuse and child molestation of up to 10 minors in Australia through what the local media called ‘grooming and opportunity.’ The alleged victims are now in their late 20s and early 30s.
Pell is the most senior Catholic in Australia but he is based out of the Vatican. He currently serves as the prefect of the secretariat of the economy.
Pell has denied the sexual abuse allegations. He will be required to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a hearing on July 18.
Cardinal George Pell charged with multiple sexual assault offenses by Australian police. He’s the 3rd-highest official at the Vatican. pic.twitter.com/Hfvvl4Rmuo
— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 29, 2017
Latest Sex Assault Controversy Brings Problems for Pope Francis
Pope Francis attained power promising to create a Catholic church that was more inclusive, and to start to clean up the bureaucracy at the Vatican, and to also remove the serious stain of child sex abuse on the church.
A pedophilia scandal plagued the two popes that came before him. After Pope Francis was elected in 2013, many people expected their would be progress. Francis talked about committees in the church that would protect children, tribunals to provide trials for bishops and no tolerance for priests that abuse children.
However, many problems still remain and are bubbling up from the past about child sex abuse and the church.
The Vatican last week announced that Francis was giving a leave of absence to Cardinal Pell. The problem for Pope Francis is that Pell is in his inner circle, and it makes his words about cracking down on sexual abuse of children in the Catholic ranks ring hollow.
After he was granted his leave, Pell stated that he talked to Francis about needing time to clear his name. He also noted that he was grateful that Francis had given him the time to go back to Australia.
Many observers of the Catholic church found the announcement to be very jarring and unusual for a pope that has largely been widely admired around the world. Francis has, they say, done a great deal to boost the image of the Catholic church.
However, all of the good work that Francis has done, as well as all of the goodwill and popularity he has enjoyed, could be largely undone as the child sex abuse scandal rears its ugly head again.
Some observers have wondered why Francis brought Pell to the Vatican at all in 2014. They say that Francis was offering Pell a way out of a growing sex scandal, as the Australian Royal Commission was beginning to look at the controversy.
Pell Has Faced Controversy for Years
Pell has been dealing with the cloud of scandal for years. The Australian Royal Commission has uncovered more than 4,000 people who allege that they were sexually abused as children in Australia.
Pell testified that he had made errors in not removing priests who were accused of sexual abuse when he was the archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney.
Then allegations surfaced that Pell himself was a sexual abuser. When he testified to the Royal Commission in 2016, the cardinal stated that he had the full backing of the pope.
It is too early to know how the Pell case will be resolved, but the fact that such a high-ranking Vatican official is facing such serious charges is a major crisis for Pope Francis. This is going to be a sturdy test of how much the pope will be able to stick with his zero tolerance policy regarding child sex abuse in the Catholic church.
Sex Abuse Charges Result in Long Prison Sentences
Federal sex crimes, whether they occur in the US, Australia, or another country, are very serious. Under US law, federal sex crimes include those that are done by force, and other crimes with some type of sexual element that occur in a US federal jurisdiction.
One of the most common types of federal sex crimes are ones that involve children or others who may not legally consent under the law, such as the mentally impaired.
In many situations, sexual abuse of a minor can lead to several federal charges. One of the most serious is child pornography. Anyone who conspires with another person to produce, procure or sell sexual material involving children may face a federal conspiracy charge.
In the United States, being convicted of sex crimes against children will result in a long federal prison sentence and being registered for life as a sex offender. Sex offender registration also requires the person to be put in state and federal databases. He or she has to notify the place where they work and live, which can lead to serious restrictions and problems for the balance of their lives.
It is possible that the person charged with sex crimes also could be charged with child molestation. Child molestation is any type of sexual touching that occurs between an adult and a child. Sexual abuse is different from child molestation in that the latter involves actual touching whereas someone who watches child pornography would be engaged in sexual abuse only.