'A whole new life:' Local people share paths out of depths of addiction and into recovery

Cardinal's alleged abuse victims end testimony in Australia

The alleged victims of the most senior Vatican official charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis finished testifying to an Australian court Wednesday.

A hearing began last week in the Melbourne Magistrate Court to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put Australian Cardinal George Pell on trial.

Pope Francis' former finance minister was charged in June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as "historical" sexual assault offenses — meaning the events are alleged to have occurred decades ago.

The courtroom had been closed to the public and media while alleged victims testified by a video link from an undisclosed location but was reopened Wednesday afternoon after the final alleged victim gave evidence.

The first witness to testify in open court was Bernard Barrett, a volunteer researcher for Broken Rites, an advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse.

Barrett told the court he received an email from an alleged victim's mother in late 2014.

Pell's lawyer, Robert Richter, accused Barrett and Broken Rites of making up allegations and trying to "pin" offenses on Australia's highest-ranked Catholic.

"You advocate publicly and you rile publicly against the Catholic Church in particular," Richter said.

"You make up representations on the website and elsewhere accusing the church of covering up sexual abuse, is that right?" Richter added.

Barrett replied, "We don't rile or make up accusations, we just state the facts."

The father of an alleged victim who died from a drug overdose in 2014 also gave evidence via video on Wednesday before the hearing was adjourned.

The father cannot be identified.

The committal hearing is scheduled to take up to a month. Pell has said he will plead not guilty if Magistrate Belinda Wallington rules that prosecutors have a strong enough case to warrant a jury trial.

The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory. For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he promised a "zero tolerance" policy for sex abuse in the church.

Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis' decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place. When Pell was promoted to the Vatican in 2014, he was already facing allegations that he had mishandled cases of clergy abuse during his time as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.

After years of alleged cover-ups and silence from the church over its pedophilia scandal, abuse survivors and their advocates have hailed the prosecution of Pell as a monumental shift in the way society is responding to the crisis.

So far, Francis has withheld judgment of Pell, saying he wants to wait for Australian justice to run its course. And he did not force the cardinal to resign. Pell said he intends to continue his work as a prefect of the church's economy ministry once the case is resolved.


This story has been corrected to show the advocacy group's name is Broken Rites, not Broken Rights.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Nation & World

Powerball-winning ticket worth $457M sold in Pennsylvania
Powerball-winning ticket worth $457M sold in Pennsylvania

Do you live in Pennsylvania? You might be $457 million richer. According to the Powerball lottery, a single ticket sold in Pennsylvania matched all five numbers and the Powerball to win Saturday's massive jackpot, a $273.9 million cash value.  >> Read more trending news  The winning numbers were 22-57-59-60-66 with Powerball 7. If you...
Woman buys $600 worth of Girl Scout cookies, has Scouts give them out free to strangers
Woman buys $600 worth of Girl Scout cookies, has Scouts give them out free to strangers

A Seattle Girl Scout troop is ending the cookie season on a sweet note. KIRO-TV's Siemny Kim shows us how their cookies inspired strangers to pay it forward. The annual cookie sale gives Girl Scouts a lesson in business. For this troop, it's also given them a lesson in kindness. “At first, I was really surprised. I didn’t know...
Teen hit by bus during Washington D.C. field trip dies
Teen hit by bus during Washington D.C. field trip dies

A North Carolina teen visiting the nation’s capitol on a middle school field trip died Thursday after he was hit by a bus March 9, according to officials.  Hunter Brown, 14, of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, was struck and trapped under a tour bus at around 6:50 p.m. near the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, according to the Wilkes Journal-Patriot...
Man steals Jeep from dealership during test drive, police say
Man steals Jeep from dealership during test drive, police say

Authorities are looking for a man who stole a Jeep on Thursday from a dealership during a test drive, police said.  The suspect walked into Philly Auto dealership around 7 p.m. and expressed interest in a red Jeep Cherokee on the lot, according to WPVI.  The man and a salesman went on a test drive. During the drive, the man started driving...
Attorneys say convicted killer's IQ too low to be executed
Attorneys say convicted killer's IQ too low to be executed

Attorneys for an Orange County man who was convicted of first-degree murder and arson last year said their client's IQ might be too low for him to be executed. A jury in May 2017 convicted Juan Rosario of beating Elena Ortega, 83, and burning her alive in her home in 2013. Jurors unanimously decided that he should be sentenced to death. Rosario's lawyers...
More Stories