Rumors flew, but no one would come out and say if they thought he should be charged. Now, that speculation is a moot point. Australian police have charged a top-ranking Vatican official in conjunction with the massive sexual abuse that rocked one of the world’s largest religious organizations.
Cardinal George Pell, who works as chief financial adviser to Pope Francis, and is, at least currently, the top Catholic official in Australia, now faces “multiple charges of historical sexual assault offenses…” according to the Associated Press. Some have expressed doubts, because many of the complaints are from so long ago, while others are rejoicing that this high-ranking official is finally being charged.
Pell, for his part, vociferously denies the charges being leveled against him, but he will face his first day in court in Melbourne on July 18.
This shocking announcement rips the barely formed scab off one of the nastiest PR scandals in recent memory. The Catholic church’s child sexual abuse scandal rocked the world. While few church officials ended up facing real legal charges, the sheer number of allegations, against very high-ranking officials in the church created huge public relations fallout for the Holy See. Some have said it led to the nearly unprecedented early retirement of the previous Pope and the ascension of the current Pope Francis.
Now, though, Pell’s arrest has put Francis in a “put up or shut up” position. The current Pope has been a hero to the masses and came into office promising a zero-tolerance policy on any sexual abuse.
Pell remained a dark cloud, even though he had yet to be charged. This is because the Cardinal faced incessant allegations of mishandling cases of clergy child abuse while he served as Archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney. These allegations were put into stark focus after many governmental agencies went on record as saying the Catholic Church, as a whole, grossly mishandled the scandal. In many, many comments and articles describing this narrative, Pell’s name was at or near the top of the list of usual suspects. But he had yet to be charged with a crime.
Now, that has changed, and the controversy is once again ignited, red hot. Pell has previously admitted the church “made mistakes,” but this description doesn’t come close to what the Australian Royal Commission called “shocking levels” of sexual abuse in Australia’s Catholic Church. So, with only a scant few years out of the headlines, the sexual abuse scandal is back in full force…and it’s reaching into the heights of global authority in the church.