Catholic Cardinal George Pell (below) will be going to jail for six years, with no chance for parole for at least three years and eight months, for the child sex abuse he was convicted of back in December. Given that Pell faced up to 50 years behind bars — 10 years for each of the five charges against him — he got off easy.
Still, that’s six years for what his lawyer callously called nothing more than a “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating.”
The cardinal was convicted on five counts in December, making him the most senior Catholic official — and the first bishop — to be found guilty in a criminal court for sexually abusing minors, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
“I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave,” the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd said during the sentencing. Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added: “You had time to reflect on your behavior as you offended, yet you refused to desist.”
Pell’s legal team plans to appeal the conviction.
The question now is what will happen to the Catholic Church, especially in Australia, where he presided. The sex abuse scandal has clearly had an impact on churchgoers.
“It’s been disastrous,” said Dr. Peter Wilkinson, a former Catholic priest and researcher in Melbourne, where Cardinal Pell served as the archbishop. “I’d say we’ve lost about two, possibly three generations of young people, and now I think the situation is worsening. The older generation is following the young.”
That exodus can’t happen fast enough. The real question is what’s stopping all those other people from leaving. At this point, knowing what they know, they’re actively defending a criminal organization for reasons that include maintaining a tradition to a hope that everything will get better. The first reason is weak while the second is hopelessly naïve. If the Church wanted to fix this problem, they would’ve done it decades ago instead of dragging their feet until secular authorities finally took these Catholic leaders to task.