Pell and his lawyers continue to maintain his innocence and have announced their plans to challenge the decision at the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.
Australian Cardinal George Pell, who once served as the Vatican's chief financial officer and adviser to the pope, was handed a six-year prison sentence Wednesday. The disgraced clergyman will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The cardinal had been facing a maximum sentence of 50 years for the sexual abuse of two 13-year-old boys in 1996. Pell was found guilty of four charges of indecent acts and one count of sexual penetration. The decision was made in December 2018, by Chief Judge Peter Kidd, but was not reported by the media until February due to a suppression order.
Throughout the hour-long sentencing hearing, Pell displayed no emotion, which led to criticism from the Judge for his "callous indifference" to the boys' suffering. Pell and his lawyers continue to maintain his innocence and have announced plans to challenge the decision at the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.
6 years jail for #Pell, 3 years 8 months non parole, but all that pales in comparison to the sentence he gave those two young boys— Sophie Walsh (@sophie_walsh9) March 13, 2019
Pell's surviving victim, who testified at the trial and has not been identified, stated that the plan to appeal overshadows any decision made by the court. The unidentified man said the conviction brought up feelings of "shame, loneliness, depression and struggle."
The other victim died of a heroin overdose in 2014, prompting Judge Kidd to point out to the Melbourne court the "profound impact" the abuse likely had on both victims. The surviving victim said in a statement that he did not fully understand the impact the assault had on his life until many years later.
The complainant testified that he was scared to accuse a powerful church figurehead at the time because he did not want to lose his place in the choir and the prestigious scholarship that came with it. Judge Kidd told Cardinal Pell that he found "beyond a reasonable doubt that, on the specific facts of your case, there was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending.”
Meanwhile, protesters outside the court, many who have experienced sexual abuse and are relieved that Pell is going to prison, they have expressed dissatisfaction with the lenient sentencing. One member of the Care Leavers Australiasia Network (CLAN) called the sentence "a joke." Judge Kidd said his sentencing was heavily influenced by Pell's age and health. Citing the same reasons, the judge said he does not consider Pell as a likely candidate for reoffending.
Pell's position in the church has yet to be determined, although a spokesperson for the Vatical confirmed that Pell no longer oversees the Vatican's finances. If Pell is defrocked, it would make him the Church's highest-profile priest dismissed in the modern day, and the second Roman Catholic prelate stripped of the title of cardinal in the last century. The church is waiting until after the appeal to comment on the case.