A powerful Australian cardinal of the Catholic Church has been ordered to stand for two trials for the abuse of minors. The judge in the case ruled that the two trials are necessary because the spat of allegations from two separate time periods, the 1970’s and the 1990’s, and should be tried separately.
On Wednesday, Judge Susan Pullen said a trial date was expected to be set during an administrative hearing on 16 May.
The Melbourne court did not publish a complete list of the allegations, but news reports indicated they involved alleged sexual offenses committed in the 1970s at a pool in Ballarat, where then-Father Pell was a priest, and at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
The 76-year-old Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, took a leave of absence from his position in the summer of 2017 to face the charges. His lawyer told the court May 1 that he had already surrendered his passport.
National Catholic Reporter called the decision a “turning point” in the decades long sage of Catholic priest sex abuse of minors.
“Whatever the trial’s outcome, the judge’s decision marks the victory of accountability over impunity, and of the rule of secular law over the Vatican’s failed strategy of cover-up,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the abuse tracking website BishopAccountability.org.
Another Catholic cardinal is expected to face trial in 2019. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, has been ordered to appear in court over charges he covered up abuse by Fr. Bernard Preynat.
Thus far, cardinals in the United States have avoided a criminal trial but that may change in the future given the high profile trials in Australia and France.
Pell, who was appointed by Pope Francis to be the Vatican’s top financial adviser, is currently on leave from that post.
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