Australia’s Cardinal George Pell loses child sex abuse appeal
MELBOURNE Cardinal George Pell remained defiant after losing an appeal against his conviction for child sex abuse yesterday, a stance that surprised few observers of the once-powerful Vatican official's fall from grace.
From his days as a country priest in Australia's rural Victoria state to his position as one of Pope Francis' closest confidants, Pell stood out as a vigorous defender of Catholic orthodoxy in the face of myriad challenges to the Church.
He has just as steadfastly denied all the charges of which he was convicted by a jury in December concerning the sexual assault of two choirboys in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral when he was archbishop of the diocese in the 1990s.
"What a load of absolute, disgraceful rubbish," Pell told Australian police who first asked him about the allegations during a filmed interview in Rome in 2016.
And after being charged a few months later with a series of offences, Pell again dismissed the allegations as "products of fantasy".
He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for what presiding judge Peter Kidd described as "callous" and "brazen" assaults by a powerful figure against two teenage choirboys in St Patrick's sacristy.
Pell remained defiant after his appeal against that conviction was rejected yesterday, issuing a statement via a spokesman saying he was "obviously disappointed" with the ruling and insisting he "maintains his innocence", while leaving open the option of seeking a new appeal to Australia's highest court.
Shortly after his conviction, Pell was removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals, effectively the Pope's cabinet and inner circle of advisers.
The Vatican dropped him as finance chief and opened its own probe into his actions after his conviction was made public in February.
That investigation continues, and following the rejection of Pell's appeal, could result in a canonical trial and his eventual expulsion from the priesthood. - AFP