In December it was reported that Australian Cardinal George Pell has been convicted of five criminal charges of sexual assault involving two boys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne Australia in the 1990’s.
There is very little information about the trial available publically because the Australian court took the unusual step of issuing a “super injunction” which prohibited all media in Australia from reporting on the trial.
This is actually Pell’s second trial on the same charges. The first one ended in a hung jury.
He is facing further charges for sexual assaults involving boys stemming back to the 1970’s in Bellarat, Australia.
An opinion piece in the Washington Post criticised “the pope’s foot-dragging and half-measures in the face of allegations that date back years or decades.”
I have to say, I agree. Pope Francis, and all the Popes before him, have been notoriously reluctant to address the scourge of sexual abuse by catholic priests and even more reluctant to punish those in authority that enabled or covered up abuse.
Cardinal Pell is the highest ranking catholic priest to have been convicted of sexual abuse. However, he is far from the only bishop who has been ensnared by the Catholic abuse crisis:
Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick:
McCarrick was the Archbishop of Washington from 2001-2006 and became a Cardinal in February 2001. He was forced to resign from the College of Cardinals in 2018 after he faced allegations of sexual abuse involving six unnamed priests from the Archdiocese of Newark who accused McCarrick of sexual misconduct while he was archbishop of Newark. The Diocese of Matuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark paid compensation to at least two of the priests who had accuse McCarrick of misconduct.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The former Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl was forced to resign in 2018 after widespread allegations of systemic abuse by priests in Pennsylvania became public. Wuerl was accused of covering up the abuse during his time as Bishop of Pittsburgh between 1988 and 2006.
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz
Errazuriz was recently forced to resign from the counsel of Cardinals following accusations that he covered up widespread sexual abuse by priests during his time as Archbishop of Santiago, Chile.
In the past year catholic bishops have launched investigations (under the code of canon law) into widespread allegations of sexual abuse in Boston, Nebraska and Philadelphia.
Perhaps the most damaging of the recent allegations against the Catholic Church is the grand jury report that was released in Pennsylvania in August last year. Even in a world that has been accustomed to widespread allegations of sexual abuse, the facts uncovered by the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation was astonishing and sickening.
The grand jury determined that more than 1,000 children had been abused by over 300 catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses over a period spanning 70 years. The report determined that church leaders covered up the crimes and moved from parish to parish or placed them in rehab centres without notifying parents, civilian authorities or police.
Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth Facing Allegations
Six months ago we filed a class action on behalf of Douglas Champagne seeking compensation for anyone abused by priests employed by the Halifax-Yarmouth archdiocese.
It is clear from various convictions of priests that were members of the Halifax-Yarmouth diocese in the past decades that Nova Scotia has not been able to escape the scourge of priest sexual abuse.
However, there has never been any criminal investigation into the scope and extent of the abuse by priests within the archdiocese. We know the names of priests that have been criminally charged and convicted. But how many priest abusers are out there who have been quietly shuffled from parish to parish or moved into “treatment centres” without ever having to face criminal or civil responsibility?
Unfortunately, Canada does not have a grand jury system that can investigate these types of allegations. There appears to be no interest in the police in investigating what church officials knew about the abuse being perpetrated by catholic priests in Halifax and Yarmouth.
Hopefully, Mr. Champagne’s class action will shed some light on this issue and provide survivors of child sexual abuse some measure of accountability and closure.