A Catholic cardinal—who was previously the third most powerful official in the Vatican—has been convicted of child sex abuse, per a verdict that was unsealed on Tuesday.
Australian Cardinal George Pell was actually found guilty on five counts of “historical child sexual offenses” back in December, though the news was unreleased until now thanks to a gag order imposed by the judge that forbade journalists from reporting on the conviction. It was lifted on Tuesday, after a second trial Pell originally faced was canceled after those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. The gag order was imposed because the judge feared the verdict might influence the jury in the second trial.
Pell, a top advisor to Pope Francis, was found guilty of forcing two 13-year-old boys to perform oral sex on him after a mass in Melbourne in 1996, where at the time he served as the city’s archbishop, news.com.au reports. According to testimony read in court:
“[Pell] planted himself in the doorway and said something like ‘what are you doing here’ or ‘you’re in trouble’,” the victim told the jury.
The court heard one of the boys asked: “Can you let us go? We didn’t do anything”.
But instead, the then-archbishop pulled one of the boys aside and pushed his head down to his penis.
After a few minutes, he turned his attention to the other choirboy, and forced him to perform oral sex before fondling him as he masturbated.
“I put my clothes back on, I corrected myself,” the former choirboy told the jury, estimating the ordeal had lasted just minutes.
When he was arrested in June 2017, Pell was adamant about his innocence. He now faces up to 50 years in prison.