Australia’s Cardinal Pell Sentenced to 6 Years for Sexual Abuse of Children, SNAP Responds

Today, one of the world’s most senior Catholic officials was sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing children.

We hope that the sentence imposed on Cardinal George Pell will provide some measure of healing to the living survivor of his abuse and comfort and closure for the family of Pell’s non-surviving victim. The courage and conviction of these two survivors will make Australian children safer in the future.

We are disappointed, however, that a case of sexual violence against two thirteen-year-olds amounted to such a comparatively light sentence. Nevertheless, we join countless survivors in praising Chief Judge Peter Kidd for his transparency in meticulously summarizing his review and reaction to the court charges, the defense’s obfuscations, and his reasons and considerations in laying his sentence for each charge.

Despite a sentence of only six years with Pell eligible for parole in less than four years, we are grateful that he could not leave the court house without signing his name into the register as a lifetime sex offender.

During the sentencing, Chief Judge Peter Kidd made a point to say that justice is only justice if it is in accordance to the rule of law, and as such he was only sentencing Cardinal Pell for the crimes he had committed, not as a scapegoat for crimes committed by clerics elsewhere. The Judge is, of course, right. The sentencing of Cardinal Pell cannot be a substitute for the justice that other survivors deserve. But given that painfully few sexual offenders are ever arrested, prosecuted and sentenced, we can understand why some survivors have been looking to this sentence as justice-by-proxy.

We are grateful to the police and prosecutors who carried this case – and the hopes of Australian survivors – across the finish line. We hope that this sentence will show others who have been suffering in silence that they, too, deserve a chance at justice and encourage them to come forward and make a report to police and prosecutors.

Interestingly, in advance of Pope Francis’ much ballyhooed summit, our group demanded that the Pope take five actions to help prevent abuse and support survivors. First among those actions was a call for Pope Francis to discipline prelates like Cardinal Pell who have abused children or covered-up for other abusers.

Sadly, Pope Francis failed to act on any of those demands.

Fortunately, the Australian justice system did. Today’s sentence is a reminder that no matter how powerful a person is nor how high they have climbed, they are still subject to the rule of law.

CONTACT: Steven Spaner, SNAP Australia Coordinator (snapspaner@gmail.com, +1 636.433.2511),  Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, +1-517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org; our Australia website is SNAPAustralia.org)


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