Sex Scandal: The Third Most Powerful Catholic Official Has Been Accused Of Sexual Abuse In Australia

The third highest ranking official in the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, has been accused of sexual abuse charges in his native Australia. This has been the biggest crisis for Pope Francis.

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Police in Australia announced that charges for multiple sexual offences were served to Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne and that he had been ordered to appear in court on 18 July.

“Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges and there are multiple complainants,” Victoria police’s deputy commissioner Shane Patton said. The charges were “historical sexual assault offences”.

Meanwhile, Pell announced at a press conference that he was innocent of the charges and that he was taking a leave of absence in order to return to Australia and “clear his name” following a recent discussion of the matter with the pope.

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The Vatican’s chief spokesman, Greg Burke, released a statement that was supportive of Pell, citing the cardinal’s “honesty” and the church’s respect for the Australian legal system. The statement did not include any reference to the alleged victims in the case and neither Pell nor Burke responded to questions about the alleged victims following a joint appearance to read their statements to the press.

In the statement, Pell offered up a robust defense of his actions and claimed he was a victim of a witch hunt.

Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal which has claimed thousands of victims and has taken place in countries around the world.

The news, which broke in the middle of the night in Rome, represents a big test for Francis, who has come under fire from advocates of abuse victims for not doing enough to respond to the long-running abuse crisis.

Vatican watchers suggested that the tone of the Vatican’s statement, which emphasized the historic nature of the charges, the fact that Pell was an advocate for survivors, and his “honesty”, indicated that Francis was not wavering from his support of Pell.

But Pope Francis has repeatedly claimed that the church ought to have zero tolerance for sexual predators within the church or those who protect them. But his record on abuse issues is seen as poor by victims’ rights advocates. Two abuse survivors who were appointed by Francis to a new commission to tackle sexual abuse have resigned or been forced to leave, a reflection they said that the issue was still not being taken seriously inside the church.

When the Pope was asked about allegations against Pell last year, he told reporters: “It’s true, there is a doubt. We have to wait for justice and not first make an immediate judgment, a judgment of gossip because that won’t help. Once justice has spoken, I will speak.”

Source: theguardian

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