On Thursday, Australian police announced their decision to charge Cardinal George Pell with “historic sexual assault offenses.” According to Victoria Police, Pell is facing multiple charges involving multiple complainants. Cardinal Pell is the third-ranking official in the Vatican and is the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be charged with sexual assault.
As the former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, Cardinal Pell has been accused of covering up child sexual abuse and has been under fire since the royal commission was ordered to investigate clerical sexual abuse in Australia in 2012. Law enforcement officials have not revealed any details regarding the alleged victims or whether the charges involve sexual abuse of minors. However, Cardinal Pell issued a statement in response to the “abhorrent” charges, denying any wrongdoing. Cardinal Pell has been placed on leave and will return to Australia to face prosecution.
Shortly after the charges were announced, the Vatican issued a statement in support of Cardinal Pell, stressing the importance of Pell’s history of condemnation of sexual abuse of children. It comes as no surprise to us, but in its statement the Vatican conveniently failed to acknowledge the victims or how they may be feeling during this tumultuous time. It remains to be seen whether the Vatican, and Pope Francis who promised “zero tolerance” for perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse, will take this matter seriously.