Many close followers of just-transpired legal events in Australia deem what happened earlier this week in a Melbourne courtroom as nearly unimaginable and hugely welcome.
One commentator speaking for an advocacy group on behalf of child sexual abuse victims across the globe termed a judge’s decision as “a turning point in the global abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.”
Many people flatly thought that the day would never happen.
And yet it did, with the court ordering Catholic Cardinal George Pell to stand trial on multiple charges of committing sexual crimes against children. Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in what is a decades-long scandal of immense scope. He is also the most senior Australian church official.
Pell’s legal team denies the charges (he uttered a terse “not guilty” plea at trial), but the general public is unmoved by that response. In fact, the 76-year-old church principal has been under strong and adverse scrutiny for years. One prominent publication covering the trial notes that Pell was a hugely “polarizing” figure while serving as archbishop in Australia prior to being promoted to Rome a few years ago.
That report further stresses the “perilous territory” that the court ruling places both the cardinal and Pope Francis in as the church continues to stagger from ever-mounting claims of child abuse.
Pell has thus far conceded only to have “made mistakes” by not taking sexual abuse-linked complaints against priests under his charge seriously enough.
He will now be under a strong judicial spotlight himself.