Crime & Justice

Australia's High Court Overturns Cardinal Pell's Child Sexual Abuse Conviction

Updated at 10 p.m. ET

Australia's High Court has found reasonable doubt that Cardinal George Pell sexually assaulted two boys in the 1990s and has overturned his conviction.

The court acquitted the former Vatican treasurer of the charges, and no retrial will be possible.

Pell, 78, had been serving a six-year prison sentence in the case. The High Court ordered that he be released.

He was convicted of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.

As an adult, one of them went to the police in 2015 and accused the cardinal of abusing him and the other boy in 1996. The other individual died of a heroin overdose the previous year without reporting abuse.

In a statement after the acquittal, as reported by Reuters, Pell said, "I hold no ill will toward my accuser, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough."

Pell was convicted in 2018 and an appellate court upheld those convictions last year.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference's comments on the acquittal recognize that the outcome will be good news for some people and "devastating for others."

"The result today does not change the Church's unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse. The safety of children remains supremely important not only for the bishops, but for the entire Catholic community. Any person with allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel should go to the police."

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