Cardinal Pell’s prison sentence draws mixed reactions

Reactions in Australia to Cardinal George Pell’s six-year prison sentence were mixed when was it broadcast live from Victoria’s County Court in central Melbourne.

Some clerical sex abuse survivors were reported as saying “even a week would have been enough”. Others said the ruling is too lenient.

Some described the prosecution as proof the church is no longer above the law. Others said they suspected Pell has been made a scapegoat for the church’s sins.

Pell himself maintains he is innocent of abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral following Mass in December 1996 and early 1997.

He has lodged an appeal.

Of the two choirboys who fell victim to Pell, one has since died. His father is following the case through on his behalf.

The surviving victim says he is finding it hard to “take comfort” in Pell’s jail sentence because his request to appeal the conviction has been granted. The appeal has been set for 5 June.

He said in a statement read by his lawyer: “I respect what the judge said. It was meticulous, and it was considered [but] it is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome.

“I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.”

The father of the deceased victim, who is suing Pell, described Pell’s sentence as a “joke” which could see him freed on parole after three years and eight months.

His lawyer said victims of abuse have been “waiting to feel heard.

“Pell’s sentencing moves that progress forward, even if only a few small steps. I admire the courage of my client to keep fighting on behalf of his deceased son. To him, this battle is not over.

“The criminal justice system has only partially satisfied our client’s pursuit for justice today.

“It’s now on us as his civil litigators to keep pushing for more just outcomes.”

The lawyer said her client is suing the cardinal “knowing that civil action has the power to disrupt an institution and impact meaningful change to prevent more tragedies from occurring”.

Pell’s sentence is said in part to reflect the court standards of two decades ago when his crimes were committed. In those days, judges placed less weight on the damage done to children by sexual abuse than is the case today.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd who imposed the sentence says it is shorter than usual due to Pell’s age, 77, and ill health.

“Your age … is relevant in a number of ways.

“Of some real importance … is the fact that each year you spend in custody will represent a substantial portion of your remaining life expectancy.

“While it is a matter of speculation as to how long you will live, the fact is that you are of advanced years and are entering the last phase of your life.”

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