Sex-Abuse Case Against Vatican Finance Chief Faces Court Test

Saul Bowman
March 6, 2018

The committal hearing will initially be open to the public as the defence and prosecution finalise further administrative matters, but will quickly move behind closed doors as accusers begin their evidence.

"News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity, to clear my name and then return to my work in Rome", Cardinal Pell said previous year.

The court adjourned until 2pm, when the first witness will take the stand. Details have not been made public.

The court is expected to be closed to the media and the public for up to two weeks while complainants give evidence, which is standard in sexual offence committal hearings in Victoria.

He has taken leave from his role as Vatican finance chief to fight the charges, which relate to incidents that allegedly occurred long ago.

Cardinal Pell is facing historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants.

One of the charges against Pell was dropped in 2017, as the complainant died after the criminal procedures began.

Magistrate Wallington said she thought the dog was an "excellent initiative" and noted that it is meant to provide support to "vulnerable and traumatised" people.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington replied: 'No, they're also there for vulnerable and traumatised people'.

When Pell last lived in Melbourne, he was archbishop of Australia's second-largest city. He intends to return to that job once the criminal charges are resolved.

Newman told BuzzFeed News she was there "to let everyone know my brother and I have been abused by the Catholic Church for years".

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric, Pell is being represented by high-profile defence barrister Robert Richter QC (the same who secured the acquittal of underworld figure Mick Gatto on a charge of murdering an underworld hitman).

ReutersCardinal George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia March 5, 2018.

He said those statements should have been properly investigated as part of the inquiry.

He told Wallington, the magistrate, that he understood the prosecution "has an objection to that support person being a priest, although I can't understand that".

Mr Richter said he meant to cross-examine on those issues.

"These documents are certainly relevant to the alleged offences".

"While I realise that intrudes on witnesses' privacy, I think openness reflects the public nature of courts and prosecutions", he says.

The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory.

Prosecutors also sought to amend some of the charges against Pell. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he famously promised a "zero tolerance" policy for sex abuse in the church.

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