Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two choirboys while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in at his trial in December, it has now been revealed.
The outcome of Pell’s trial last year was kept under a suppression order to avoid prejudicing a proposed second trial, which has now been dropped.
A previous trial conducted in August 2018 resulted in a hung jury, and was followed by the retrial which saw Pell convicted.
The offences took place in December 1996 and early 1997 at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with the earliest occurring when Pell allegedly sexually assaulted two 13-year-old choirboys.
The unnamed, 35-year-old complainant – the only one to testify as the other man died of an overdose in 2014 – said they had both split off from the choir procession and sneaked back into the church, entering the priest’s sacristy and drinking sacramental wine.
The complainant said Pell exposed his penis from under his robes and forced the other boy’s head onto it, before ordering the complainant to take off his pants. He told the court that Pell then fondled the complainant’s penis while masturbating himself.
The 35-year-old man said that being in the choir was a condition of his scholarship to St. Kevin’s College, a high-profile Catholic school in Toorak.
“I knew a scholarship could be given or taken away even at that age. And I didn’t want to lose that. It meant so much to me. And what would I do if I said such a thing about an archbishop?” he said.
“It’s something I carried with me the whole of my life.”
The complainant described a second offence taking place later in December 1996 or early 1997, where he said he crossed paths with Pell near the chorister’s change rooms.
He said that Pell pushed him up against a wall and squeezed his groin through his choir robes.
Pell was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 alongside four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16.
His defence said that the complainant’s allegation contained too many improbabilities, with his barrister, Robert Richter QC, giving a PowerPoint presentation in which one slide read, “Only a madman would attempt to rape two boys in the priests’ sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass.”
The complainant’s lawyer released a statement on his behalf, in which he thanks his family for their support and asked for privacy following the verdict.
“Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life,” he said.
“I need space and time to cope with the ongoing criminal process. I understand this is a big news story but please don’t reveal my identity.
“I don’t want to give any interviews. Please don’t come to my home. I want to protect my young family and my parents. I don’t want them swept into the spotlight.
“I am not a spokesperson about child sexual abuse. There are many other survivors and advocates who bravely fill this role.
“I am just a regular guy working to support and protect my family as best I can.”
Pell is notorious for publicly reinforcing the Catholic Church’s anti-LGBTI views.
“Homosexuality — we’re aware that it does exist. We believe such activity is wrong and we believe for the good of society it should not be encouraged,” he said in 1990.
In 2007, he made headlines for refusing communion to gay and lesbian parishioners organised as the Rainbow Sash while he was Archbishop of Sydney, which he had previously done in Melbourne.
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve and important consequences follow from this,” he said at the time.
“Our Judeo-Christian religious tradition allows men and women sexual expression within the bounds of family life, a sexuality which is life-giving. Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, they close the sexual act to the gift of life.”
On an episode of Q&A in 2012, Pell said responded to a question asking if homosexuality is part of God’s creation by saying, “Creation is messy. I think it’s the oriental carpet makers always leave a little flaw in their carpet because only God is perfect.”
“We can control our instincts and like with heredity and environment, a lot of this practice is learned. But whatever about it, we’ve got to try to support these people, show compassion, the Catholic Church has a great record there.”
The end of the suppression order comes just after two high-level Catholic cardinals last week blamed the Church’s spate of child sex abuse scandals on “the plague of the homosexual agenda”.
One of them, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, has previously called homosexuality a “tendency that is disorded.”
“Now it seems clear in light of these recent terrible scandals that indeed there is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root,” he said.
“Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so,” said a statement made on his behalf today.
“An appeal has been lodged against his conviction and he will await the outcome of the appeal process.
“Although originally the Cardinal faced allegations from a number of complainants, all charges except for those the subject of the appeal have now been either withdrawn, discharged or discontinued. He will not be commenting in the meantime.”
Pell is due to be sentenced on Wednesday.