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Pell, one of the most powerful men in the Vatican, has been at the center of a media firestorm in recent years in his native Australia involving whether or not he, as archbishop of Melbourne, had been involved in covering up the abuses of others.Last year, before any accusations against him surfaced, Pell became involved in the wider scandal when he testified to an Australian commission on clerical child abuse.Cardinal George Pell, the third most senior official at the Vatican, was charged with multiple “historical” sexual assaults in his native Australia, and ordered to appear in a Melbourne court next month.Ninety minutes after the charges were announced, the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney released a statement that Pell would “return to Australia as soon as possible to clear his name.” Authorities have not yet released information about the alleged victims, but they are believed to have involved minors.Rumors have swarmed since then that charges were imminent, but they were only filed this morning.Pell is the most senior member of the Catholic Church to be involved in what has now been decades of scandal over systematic child abuse in the ‘60s, ’70s and early ‘80s, by Catholic clergy worldwide.
Since late last year, renewed rumors have swirled of Pell’s own personal involvement in sexual abuse.
Often, Vatican officials chose to see offenses in the religious category of — sexual misconduct caused by temptation, and to be addressed through prayer and repentance, with the focus on the abuser’s state of mind — rather than through the lens of crime or systematic abuse.
As Thomas Reese puts it in the National Catholic Reporter It was thought that if the priest was moved away from ‘temptation’ to another parish, the problem would be solved.
The final straw, she said, was the Vatican’s reluctance to comply with a recommendation that all correspondence from those identifying themselves as victims of abuse should receive a response.
But the pope’s continued involvement with Cardinal Pell has proved fodder for critics who say he is not doing enough to redress the Vatican’s wrongs.