Cardinal Pell conviction 'could be start of something cataclysmic'

Cardinal Pell conviction 'could be start of something cataclysmic'

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years behind bars for sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s.

Pope Francis is marking his sixth anniversary as pontiff with prayer, attending a weeklong spiritual retreat while elsewhere in the world one of his cardinals is sentenced for sex abuse and a new poll finds American Catholics are increasingly questioning their faith because of the scandal.

The 77-year-old was Melbourne Archbishop when he sexually assaulted two 13-year-old choirboys in 1996 and was found guilty of five charges late last year.

The total non-parole period handed down is three years and eight months.

"Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance", said Judge Peter Kidd.

He plans to appeal.

"I'm not a fair-weather friend", Abbott said.

"This is a really, really sad thing for Catholics like me".

Churchgoer Kevin said he was not convinced by the guilty verdict and said the result did not shake his faith in the church.

He began the hearing, which was broadcast live, by stating that Pell was "entitled to the balanced and steady hand of justice" and lamenting "lynch mob mentality" among some of the public.

Pell also said the Church made "catastrophic" choices by minimizing its response to, and covering up, abuse complaints.

"I will make allowance for these matters".

The first choirboy told how he was forced to perform oral sex on the cardinal, who at the time was Archbishop of Melbourne and a revered figure within the Catholic Church. He also probably believed his victims would not complain.

Senior crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC foreshadowed in a pre-sentence hearing in February that Pell would likely spend "significant time" in prison.

The second incident, though less serious in nature, was committed against a boy who had already been abused by Pell, he noted.

Following the sentencing Pell registered as a sex offender, a list he will now be on for life.

Crowd gathers to watch the live stream of Cardinal George Pell's sentencing.

She said Pell's reaction was cold and that seemed uninterested in what she had to say.

"It's a very long road to get justice from the Catholic priesthood and now it's happened through our court system, it's a wonderful thing.
Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact on my life".

"There is no rest for me", the victim named only as "J" said in a statement, read by his lawyer Vivian Waller.

"I am also conscious that I am sentencing at a particular time where in recent years there has been the exposure of child sexual abuse within institutional settings, including within the Catholic Church".

The judge also warned other victims that "this sentence can not be vindication of wrongdoings against you [other victims]".

"The sentence I impose must aim to discourage potential offenders by demonstrating to those offenders the grave consequences of violating such laws".

Campaigner against child sexual abuse, Leonie Sheedy, arrived at the court today hoping for justice.

"People are finally feeling that they are able to use their voices and speak up and be heard".

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