The highest-level Catholic official ever to be charged with child sex crimes was convicted on Monday in Melbourne, Australia.
“Cardinal George Pell is Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and the Vatican’s economy minister. He bowed his head as a jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on Dec. 11 after more than two days of deliberation,” according to AP.
Pell molested two choirboys.
The convicted Cardinal is 77-years-old and faces up to 50 years in prison, the report said. He is expected to appeal the ruling.
“The jury convicted Pell of abusing two 13-year-old boys whom he had caught swigging sacramental wine in a rear room of Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 when he was archbishop,” according to the report.
The Catholic Church has long been embroiled in child sex abuse scandals, which have intensified over the past year. Fourteen states attorneys general have demanded internal documents pertaining to child sex abuse from all of the Catholic dioceses within their states. In December, the attorney general of Illinois found that 500 priests had been accused of sex abuse, but never reported.
In a summit held by Pope Francis over the weekend, he vowed to confront abusers with “the wrath of God,” and called sex abuse a “brazen, aggressive and destructive evil.”
“If in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse – which already in itself represents an atrocity – that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness,” he said. “Indeed, in people’s justified anger, the church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons.”
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