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World News

'The victims are often the ones left high and dry': reaction to Cardinal Pell's sentence

by Cara Bentley

In Australia, the Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd ordered Cardinal George Pell to serve a minimum of three years and eight months before he is eligible for parole.

He was found guilty of abusing two choir boys in the 1990s when he was 55 and the boys were 13.

Someone who long ago accused George Pell of suspicious behaviour is Pete Saunders, appointed by the Pope to be on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors but then removed when he criticised Cardinal Pell on Australian TV.

Speaking on Premier Christian Radio's News Hour, Pete Saunders was asked what he thought of the sentence: "I think, given the nature of the crime, in some ways he's got off lightly but really the judge has taken into account his age and his state of health. Assuming he doesn't win his appeal, which I wouldn't entirely dismiss the possibiliy of that happening, he will serve about three years in prison before release.

"He's the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of these vile, vile crimes and I think that really what we've got to focus on is remembering the victims and what this is all about."

He said there is often too much focus on the criminal: "I was appalled to see a poster pinned to a church newsletter in Australia this weekend asking for prayers for Cardinal Pell and the thing that broke my heart is that I understand that appeal, I'm a Christian - we have to pray for our enemies, we have to pray for sinners and we're all sinnner - I get that completely, but where were the prayers for the men who suffered? Or indeed the man whose life was taken because of the abuse he suffered?"

One of Pell's victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 without reporting the abuse.

Saunders continued: "We're very, very quick to come round and talk about issues like forgiveness and prayer for the perpertrator but often the victims are the ones who are left high and dry."

Saunders is still in contact with those connected to the case and said he believes the victims expressed a reserved degree of satisfaction with the sentence, as well as expressing concern that Pell could still win an appeal and have his conviction quashed.

Speaking of Cardinal Pell he said: "If he does have a Christian bone in his body, I hope he is there praying for the victims and praying that he can address truth and speak truth in future."

The 77-year-old denies the allegations and will appeal his convictions on 5th June.

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