Top Vatican official's sex abuse conviction latest blow to embattled Catholic Church

The revelation that a Catholic cardinal in Australia was convicted of molesting boys marks the most senior member of the church to face prison time for sexual abuse.

The charges against Cardinal George Pell -- who was not only a major figure in Australia's Catholic church but also a close adviser to Pope Francis -- were not publicly released until Tuesday because of a law in the country's court system.

In December, he was convicted of molesting two choir boys in the 1990s, but under Australian law, all details of that trial -- including the fact that the trial was held at all -- were suppressed because Pell was set to be subject to a second trial.

But the suppression order was lifted after additional charges relating to allegations that Pell had also abused boys in his hometown of Ballarat in the 1970s were dropped, prompting details of the first trial and conviction to be made public for the first time, according to the Associated Press.

Pell's sentencing hearing is set to begin Wednesday, and he could face up to 50 years in prison, the AP reported. Pell's lawyer Paul Galbally said that Pell maintains his innocence and that an appeal on the conviction has already been filed.

The Australian Broadcasting Company reports that the allegatio...

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