George Pell: What happens to the disgraced cardinal now


Disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell was on Wednesday sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing two choirboys, in what the judge lambasted as a "brazen" attack and "grave" abuse of power.

Pell, the most senior Catholic worldwide to be convicted for child sex offenses, faces a maximum of 10 years in jail for each of the four charges of indecent acts and one charge of sexual penetration on which he was found guilty.

Last year, a court heard that Pell had abused the boys following a mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

Last month, the Vatican described Pell's conviction as "painful news" that had "shocked many", and said he was prohibited from public ministry.

Child sexual abuse survivor Andrew, who was assaulted at a different institution, said he had no sympathy for Pell.

Howard said he was aware of Pell's conviction and pending appeal but that "none of these matters alter my opinion of the Cardinal".

Asked by a reporter outside court after the sentencing whether the case against Pell amounted to a witch hunt, his lawyer Robert Richter gave a rueful smile.

Pell is the world's most senior Catholic leader to be found guilty of such crimes.

Victim said "hard to take comfort" from his sentence.

The lawyer told Judge Kidd that behind bars, Pell would be considered a "lightning rod" for the sins of the Catholic Church.

Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months.

A member of the public reacts to Pell's sentence. Image AP
A member of the public reacts to Pell's sentence. Image AP

State and federal inquiries would later find it to be one of the Catholic dioceses worst-affected by cases of abuse, though none of the complaints against Pell stem from his time there.

"I think really, the point is, under the systems that work at the moment and the sentencing of other convicted paedophiles, it's a tough sentence", Neil Mitchell said.

The depiction of Pell as a man wronged has infuriated survivors of church sex abuse who say that casting victims as liars and priests as beyond reproach perpetuates a culture that allowed abuse to thrive within the Catholic Church for decades.

Pell - who appeared in an open black shirt, light tan jacket and cane - nodded to a friend in court after being brought in by police but then stared straight ahead, showing no real sign of emotion during the sentence.

She said Pell's reaction was cold and that seemed uninterested in what she had to say.

The father of one of Pell's victims who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 paid tribute to his son's childhood friend for speaking out.

"You are not to be made a scapegoat", he said.

Pell suffers from what Judge Kidd described as "significant enough" health issues, including hypertension, congestive heart failure - he has a pacemaker - and osteoarthritis in both knees.

With global attention on historic abuse within the Catholic church, Kidd however stressed that it was Pell rather than the Vatican that was on trial.

Pell's appeal has been slated for a hearing on June 5 and 6.

"I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child", he said.

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