Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing two teenage choirboys in the 1990s.
Pell, the world’s most senior Catholic official to be convicted of child sex abuse, was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne after a Sunday mass.
The 77-year-old stared directly at Chief Judge Kidd when he imposed the sentence on Wednesday morning which allows Pell to apply for parole after three years and eight months.
In remarks broadcast live around the world from Melbourne County Court, Judge Kidd called Pell’s crimes ‘breathtakingly arrogant’ and said the abuse has caused ‘long-term and serious harm.’
He said Pell’s age and lack of offending for 22 years meant he is not a danger to the community and is not likely to re-offend.
The judge also took into account Pell’s ailing health as he suffers from high blood pressure and congestive heart failure which requires him to have a pacemaker – and said there was a chance Pell will die in jail.
But because the disgraced cardinal still denies the abuse, Judge Kidd said he had shown ‘no remorse or contrition’ which could have reduced the sentence.
Pell, who was until late February the Vatican’s treasurer and once considered a pope in waiting, will be placed on the sex offender’s register for the rest of his life.
After the court hearing, campaigners called the sentence lenient and a ‘disgrace’.
Abuse survivor Michael Advocate said: ‘It doesn’t send any deterrent, it doesn’t give the victims any sense of justice.
Referring to the non-parole period, he added: ‘Jail time of less than four months for destroying the lives of two innocent young boys – is their life only worth two years each?’
Mr Advocate said it gave sex abuse victims comfort to know that Pell will be behind bars tonight and added: ‘May Pell rot in his cell.’
The cardinal wore an open neck black shirt with no collar for the sentencing – the first time he has been seen in public without the collar.
At the start of proceedings at 10am, Judge Kidd said Pell’s offending had a ‘profound impact’ on his victims.
But he made clear that Pell would receive the ‘stable hand of justice’ and told him ‘you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church.’
‘Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy in the Catholic church,’ the judge added