Vatican Refuses to Take Action on Cardinal Pell, SNAP Responds

Days after the conviction for sexually abusing two boys was upheld, Pope Francis and the Vatican refuse to take steps to defrock or otherwise discipline Australia’s top catholic official. This is an embarrassing move by Vatican officials and only further underscores how out of touch they are when it comes to cases of clergy sexual abuse.

Cardinal George Pell was the third-highest ranking official in the Vatican before his conviction. Now he will spend the next six years in prison. And yet despite the fact that he has been convicted by a jury of his peers and seen his conviction upheld by a Australian appeals court, Cardinal Pell remains a Cardinal, with all the rights and honors it entails.

The Vatican argues that Cardinal Pell “has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process.” Fortunately for us, most the world’s justice systems do not consider a mere denial of charges as an adequate defense against them. It certainly was not an adequate defense in Australia. It is embarrassing and backwards that church officials in Rome even try to suggest such a denial is a good enough defense for their purposes.

Perhaps it is fitting that Cardinal Pell will serve his time in jail as a high-ranking member of the church. After all, his power as a Cardinal is likely what allowed him to escape justice for his crimes for so long. But this is not the message that Pope Francis is purposefully sending when he refuses to discipline his former Secretariat of the Economy.

But regardless of what message Pope Francis means to send, the one he has sent is clear: if you are a high-ranking church official, not even a conviction is enough for the church to levy punishment. We are glad, then, that the discipline that matters and can truly protect children and prevent future abuse is being meted out by local courts and not the Vatican’s kangaroo versions.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, zhiner@snapnetwork.org)

(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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