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Australian Court Hears Public Testimony in Cardinal Pell Abuse Case

Australian Court Hears Public Testimony in Cardinal Pell Abuse Case


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Cardinal George Pell outside the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court last week. He has been accused of “historical sexual offenses,” meaning they took place decades ago.

Credit
Daniel Pockett/EPA, via Shutterstock

MELBOURNE, Australia — A judge allowed reporters into an Australian courtroom on Wednesday to hear witness testimony during a pretrial hearing for Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking priest, in a high-profile sexual abuse case that has largely unfolded behind closed doors.

Cardinal Pell has been accused of “historical sexual offenses,” meaning they took place decades ago, but the details of the criminal complaint have not been made public. For the past 10 days the court has been closed to the public as those accusing Cardinal Pell were questioned via video conference.

In general, Australian law tends to be more favorable to defendants, and proceedings more secretive, than in the United States. Such cases are often subject to the country’s contempt standards, and other legal restrictions, which prohibit journalists from reporting on details of criminal allegations.

The hearing, which is expected to run for at least another week, will determine if Cardinal Pell, the most senior member of the Catholic Church to face such accusations, will stand trial.

Cardinal Pell had been accused in hearings before Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of mishandling misconduct cases against clergy members while he served as the leader of the Archdioceses of Melbourne and Sydney. Then allegations surfaced that he had himself been involved in abuse beginning early in his priesthood and continuing until he became archbishop of Melbourne. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

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Robert Richter, right, Cardinal Pell’s attorney, cross-examined prosecution witnesses on Wednesday.

Credit
Luis Ascui/EPA, via Shutterstock

Pope Francis last year gave Cardinal Pell, the Vatican’s de facto finance chief, a leave of absence to return to Australia to mount his defense. The cardinal’s rank and the nature of the allegations could make the case precedent setting, and it threatens to undermine the pope’s promise to weed out sexual abuse in the Church.

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Apsny News English

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