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Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)


Protesters hold placards outside the County Court where Cardinal George Pell is to arrive in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)


Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)


Australian Cardinal Pell to spend his first night in prison

By ROD McGUIRK

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 27

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse was sent to prison on Wednesday and will wait two weeks to learn his sentence for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago.

Victorian state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd revoked Cardinal George Pell’s bail at the end of a sentencing hearing in a packed, standing room-only courtroom. Kidd said he would deliver his sentence on March 13.

The 77-year-old Pell, who could face 50 years in prison, showed no expression as he walked from the dock with a cane escorted by three court security officers and a prison guard. Pell paused at the door, turned to the judge and bowed.

He was taken by prison van from the court to the Melbourne Assessment Prison, a maximum security facility where inmates new to the state penal system are assessed. All prisoners are strip-searched on arrival and Pell, like all pedophiles, will be kept in protective custody, where he will remain alone for up to 23 hours a day.

A jury unanimously convicted Pell in December of abusing the two 13-year-olds in a rear room of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 weeks after becoming archbishop of Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. But Pell wasn’t taken into custody immediately because he had surgery scheduled to have both knees replaced.

Pell faced an abusive crowd Wednesday as he entered court half an hour before his sentencing hearing began.

“I hope you burn in hell!” one man shouted while pushing against a cluster of police officers trying to shield the cardinal as he walked into the courthouse. “You’re a pedophile! You’re a criminal! You’re a monster!”

Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter was heckled by members of the public during the lunch break, prompting Kidd to warn people in the gallery that they could be charged with contempt of court for such behavior.

Kidd said such acts directed at Pell and Richter showed that Pell was being blamed for the sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic Church recently exposed by a government-commissioned investigation into Australian institutions’ handling of abuse allegations.

“The Catholic Church is not on trial … I’m imposing sentence on Cardinal Pell for what he did,” Kidd said.

The court had until Tuesday forbidden publication of any details about the trial because Pell had faced a second trial in April on charges that he indecently assaulted two boys aged 9 or 10 and 11 or 12 as a young priest in the late 1970s in a public pool in his hometown of Ballarat. Those charges have now been dropped.

Pope Francis removed Pell as a member of his informal Cabinet in October. He had remained prefect of the Vatican’s economy ministry, but his five-year term expired this month, acting Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.

Gisotti tweeted that Pell “is no longer” the Holy See’s economy chief.

On Wednesday, Gisotti said that the Vatican office that handles sex abuse of minors has taken over the case as well. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has the power to remove Pell from the priesthood, as it did recently with former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked earlier this month after the Vatican office found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adults.

The Vatican spokesman says that the Vatican office that handles sex abuse of minors has taken over the case involving Cardinal George Pell following his conviction for molesting two choir boys.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Wednesday that the Australian cardinal, the highest Catholic cleric convicted of sex abuse, was being investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which has the power to remove him from the priesthood.

The move was expected as the Church must conduct its own canonical investigation whenever there is a credible allegation of sex abuse.

Pell was jailed Wednesday pending his sentencing in the decades-old molestation case.

Pope Francis removed Pell as a member of his informal Cabinet in October, and the Vatican confirmed he is no longer its economy minister.

Pell will be sentenced for five convictions of sexual penetration and indecent acts involving the boys. Each conviction carries a maximum 10-year prison term.

The judge said Pell was guilty of a breach of trust with an element of brutality and had had a sense of impunity. “I see this as callus, brazen offending — blatant,” Kidd said.

“At the time, he thought he was going to get away with it. Otherwise he wouldn’t have done it,” Kidd added.

Richter had told the jury during the trial that “only a mad man” would take the risk of sexually abusing two boys in a cathedral room with the door open and people likely to wander in.

On Wednesday, Richter described the abuse as a “temporary loss of judgment” in response to an “irresistible impulse.”

Pell had maintained his innocence throughout, describing the accusations as “vile and disgusting conduct.” His lawyers have appealed the convictions and were scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon to apply for bail. But the bail application was later withdrawn, and no date has been set for an appeal hearing.

Pell lawyer Paul Galbally said the cardinal had decided against applying for bail.

“He believes it is appropriate for him to await his sentencing” in prison, Galbally said in a statement.

The victim who testified at Pell’s trial said in a statement that since the conviction was revealed, he has experienced “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle.” The man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.

The other victim died of a heroin overdose that his father attributed to the aftermath of the abuse. Neither victim can be named under state law.

The revelations in the Pell case came in the same month that the Vatican announced that Francis approved the expulsion from the priesthood of a former high-ranking American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, for sexual abuse of minors and adults.

The convictions were also confirmed days after Francis concluded his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

Australian Cardinal Pell convicted of molesting 2 choirboys

By ROD McGUIRK

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass, dealing a new blow to the Catholic hierarchy’s credibility after a year of global revelations of abuse and cover-up.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and the Vatican’s economy minister, bowed his head but then regained his composure as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on Dec. 11 after more than two days of deliberation.

The court had until Tuesday forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

Pell faces a potential maximum 50-year prison term after a sentencing hearing that begins on Wednesday. He lodged an appeal last week of the convictions.

Details of the trial had been suppressed because until Tuesday, Pell had faced a second trial in April on charges that he indecently assaulted two boys aged 9 or 10 and 11 or 12 as a young priest in the late 1970s in a public pool in his hometown of Ballarat.

Prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the court on Tuesday that the Ballarat charges had been dropped and asked for the suppression order to be lifted. The move came days after a judge ruled out two key prosecution witnesses in the Ballarat case.

Acting Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti read a statement to reporters Tuesday at the Vatican, saying Pope Francis has confirmed “precautionary measures” already taken against Pell, including a ban on his saying Mass in public and “as is the rule, contact in any way or form with minors.”

The victim who testified at Pell’s trial said after the conviction was revealed that he has experienced “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle.” In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.

Lawyer Lisa Flynn said the father of the second victim, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31, is planning to sue the church or Pell individually once the appeal is resolved.

Pell was surrounded by a crush of cameras and members of the public as he was ushered from the courthouse to a waiting car. “You’re a monster!” one man shouted. “You’re going to burn in hell, you freak!”

“Are you sorry?” one woman shouted. Pell did not respond.

Another of Pell’s lawyers, Paul Galbally, said Pell continued to maintain his innocence.

The revelations came in the same month that the Vatican announced Francis approved the expulsion from the priesthood of a former high-ranking American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, for sexual abuse of minors and adults.

The convictions were also confirmed days after Francis concluded his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

Australia’s ranking bishop, Mark Coleridge, who delivered the homily at the final Mass of the summit, said Pell’s convictions “shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia.”

“The bishops agree that everyone should be equal under the law and we respect the Australian legal system,” said Coleridge, who is president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

The lifting of the suppression order was welcomed by SNAP, a U.S. support group for victim of clergy abuse.

“We hope that his conviction will not only bring healing to his victims in Australia but hope to survivors across the world who are yearning for accountability at the top levels of the church,” SNAP said in a statement. “We believe (the) conviction will make Australian children safer and parents and parishioners better informed about how to prevent sexual abuse.”

The jury convicted Pell of abusing two boys whom he had caught swigging sacramental wine in a rear room of Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996, as hundreds of worshippers were streaming out of Sunday services.

Pell, now 77 but 55 at the time, had just been named the most senior Catholic in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne.

The boys were both 13 years old. The jury also found Pell guilty of indecently assaulting one of the boys in a corridor more than a month later.

Pell had maintained his innocence throughout, describing the accusations as “vile and disgusting conduct.”

Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, had told the jury that only a “mad man” would take the risk of abusing boys in such a public place. He said it was “laughable” that Pell would have been able to expose his penis and force the victim to take it in his mouth, given the cumbersome robes he was wearing.

Both he and Chief Judge Peter Kidd urged the jury of eight men and four women not to punish Pell for all the failings of the Catholic Church, which in Australia have been staggering.

Along with Ireland and the U.S., Australia has been devastated by the impact of the clerical abuse scandal, with a Royal Commission inquiry finding that 4,444 people reported they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia between 1980 and 2015.

As a result, Pell’s trial amounted to something of a reckoning for survivors, with the brash and towering cardinal becoming the poster child for all that went wrong with the way the Catholic Church handled the scandal.

The conviction capped a year that had been so dominated by revelations of high-ranking sex abuse and cover-up that analysts openly speak of a crisis unparalleled since the Reformation. In addition to Pell, the allegations against McCarrick of groping a minor in the 1970s and of sleeping with adult seminarians became public.

As a result of the scandal, Francis’ approval ratings have tanked in the United States, and his standing with conservative Catholics around the world has plunged.

When the jury chairman delivered the first guilty verdict, Pell’s hands slipped from the arm rests of the chair where he sat in the dock at the back of the courtroom. His head bowed after the second verdict, but he restored his composure for the final verdicts.

Pell, who walked to and from court throughout his monthlong trial with a crutch under his right arm, was released on bail to undergo surgical knee replacements in Sydney on Dec. 14.

The first four offenses occurred at the first or second Solemn Mass that Archbishop Pell celebrated as leader of the magnificent blue-stone century-old cathedral in the center of Melbourne. Pell was wearing his full robes — though not his staff or pointed bishops’ hat — at the time.

The now 34-year-old survivor told the court that Pell orally raped him, then crouched and fondled the complainant’s genitals while masturbating.

“I was young and I didn’t really know what had happened to me. I didn’t really know what it was, if it was normal,” the complainant told the court.

The other victim died of a heroin overdose in 2014 without ever complaining of the abuse, and even denying to his suspicious mother that he had been molested while he was part of the choir.

Neither boy can now be identified, because it is illegal to name victims of sexual assault in Victoria state.

Pell was initially charged with orally raping the second boy. But that charge was downgraded to indecent assault when the victim who testified said that he couldn’t see the other’s boy mouth at that moment from his vantage point.

More than a month later, the complainant testified that Pell pushed him against a cathedral corridor wall after a Mass and squeezed the boy’s genitals painfully before walking away in silence.

“Pell was in robes and I was in robes. He squeezed and kept walking,” the complainant told the jurors. “I didn’t tell anyone at the time because I didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I didn’t want to rock the boat with my family, my schooling, my life.”

The complainant testified that he feared that making such accusations against a powerful church man would cost him his place in the choir and with it his scholarship to prestigious St. Kevin’s College.

Pell pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four counts of willfully committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under 16 in late 1996 and early 1997.

He did not testify at his trial. But the jury saw a video recording of an interview he gave Australian detectives in Rome in 2016 in which he stridently denied the allegations.

Pell grimaced, appearing incredulous and distressed, waved his arms over his head and muttered to himself as the detectives detailed the accusations that his victim had leveled against him a year earlier.

“The allegations involve vile and disgusting conduct contrary to everything I hold dear and contrary to the explicit teachings of the church which I have spent my life representing,” Pell told police.

Richter told the jury that the prosecution case compounded a series of improbabilities and impossibilities.

He told the jury that Pell could not have “parted” his robes as the complainant had described.

The jury was handed the actual cumbersome robes Pell wore as archbishop.

More than 20 witnesses, including clerics, choristers and altar servers, testified during the trial. None recalled ever seeing the complainant and the other victim break from a procession of choristers, altar servers and clerics to go to the back room.

The complainant testified that he and his friend had run from the procession and back into the cathedral through a side door to, as Prosecutor Mark Gibson said, “have some fun.”

Monsignor Charles Portelli, who was the cathedral’s master of ceremonies in the 1990s, testified that he was always with Pell after Mass to help him disrobe in the sacristy.

The defense argued that Pell’s usual practice was to linger at the cathedral front steps talking to members of the congregation after Mass. But Gibson said there was evidence that Pell didn’t always chat outside and had the opportunity to commit the crimes.

The lifting of the gag order comes after Francis charted a new course for the Catholic Church to confront clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, a scandal that has consumed his papacy and threatens the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy at large.

Opening a first-ever Vatican summit on preventing abuse, Francis warned 190 bishops and religious superiors last week that their flocks were demanding concrete action, not just words, to punish predator priests and keep children safe. He offered them 21 proposals to consider going forward, some of them obvious and easy to adopt, others requiring new laws.

But Francis went into the meeting even more weakened and discredited after one of his top advisers was convicted of the very crime he has now decided is worth fighting on a universal scale.

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

The Conversation

What Catholic Church records tell us about America’s earliest black history

February 27, 2019

Author: Jane Landers, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University

Disclosure statement: Jane Landers receives funding from National Endowment for the Humanities Andrew W. Mellon Foundation American Council of Learned Societies John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Historic S. Augustine Research Institute

Partners: Vanderbilt University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

For most Americans, black history begins in 1619, when a Dutch ship brought some “20 and odd Negroes” as slaves to the English colony of Jamestown, in Virginia.

Many are not aware that black history in the United States goes back at least a century before this date.

In 1513, a free and literate African named Juan Garrido explored Florida with a Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de León. In the following decades, Africans, free and enslaved, were part of all the Spanish expeditions exploring the southern region of the United States. In 1565, Africans helped establish the first permanent European settlement in what is St. Augustine, Florida today.

The Slave Societies Digital Archive which I direct as a historian at Vanderbilt University includes Catholic Church records from St. Augustine.

These records date back to the 1590s and document some of the earliest black history of the U.S.

Catholicism and runaway slaves

These Catholic Church records show that everyone was treated in theory as “brothers in Christ” and that the Church helped incorporate Africans into Spanish communities. It also helped free some slaves.

St. Augustine’s Catholic records show that after English Protestants established a settlement in what became South Carolina in 1670, their African slaves began to flee southward seeking admission into the “True Faith” – which to the Spaniards meant Catholicism.

Florida’s Spanish governors sheltered them and saw to their religious conversion, seeking royal approval of their actions. After some deliberation, in 1693, Spain’s monarch ruled that all slaves fleeing Protestant lands to seek conversion in Catholic colonies should be freed. Word of the fugitives’ reception in St. Augustine spread quickly through South Carolina, generating bitter complaints among planters and encouraging additional southward escapes by their slaves.

By 1738, the number of slave runaways reaching Florida had grown to approximately 100. Based on Spain’s religious sanctuary policy, Florida’s Spanish governor freed the runaways and established them in a town of their own called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, two miles north of the Spanish city of St. Augustine. Mose was modeled after the nearby Indian towns where Catholic priests were also assigned to teach the “new Christians” the principles of the Catholic faith.

The site is now a National Historic Landmark, listed on the National Park Service Underground Railroad Route, and has been nominated for a UNESCO Slave Route designation. A museum based on both archaeological and historical studies presents the stories of the Mose townspeople.

African heritage in church records

The records in St. Augustine’s church reveal the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nature of Mose.

Its leader and captain of the town’s militia, Francisco Menéndez, was of Mandinga ethnicity and came from the Senegambian region of West Africa in modern-day Senegal. He probably spoke a variety of languages but learned Spanish as well and wrote petitions to the Spanish King. Others at Mose came from the Congo nation, that is today in West Central Africa.

Pedro Graxales, the Congo man who was sergeant of the Mose militia was married to a slave woman of the Carabalí nation, from what is today southeastern Nigeria. The couple chose godparents from Congo for their children.

Florida’s priests noted that some people from Congo had undergone previous Catholic baptisms in Africa and that even as they learned Spanish, some of them still prayed and blessed themselves in their native language of Kikongo, a Bantu language spoken throughout large areas of West Central Africa.

Creating a black Catholic family

Baptism into the Catholic faith was important because it cleansed black converts of the “stigma of original sin.” It also brought them into the “Christian brotherhood” of the church. Baptism also served an important social function. Families were linked in a system of reciprocal obligations between the baptized and his or her godparents, as also between the parents and godparents.

For example, Francisco Felipe Edimboro and his wife, Filis, were African-born slaves of Florida’s wealthiest planter, Don Francisco Sánchez. The couple had their three-year-old son baptized on the same day that their master and his mulatto consort baptized their natural son. Edimboro and Filis eventually had 10 more children baptized in St. Augustine’s church. On July 15, 1794, they were themselves baptized and married.

Their Catholic baptism and marriage coincided with their suit to buy their freedom and likely contributed to the successful outcome of that litigation.

As a free man, Felipe Edimboro became a landowner and sergeant of St. Augustine’s free black militia. He also served as godfather to 21 black children born in St. Augustine whose baptisms were recorded in its Catholic Church.

What these records say about families

These and other records allow scholars to track the history of several generations of the large Edimboro family to the present day.

One of Edimboro and Filis’s free daughters, Eusebia, had a child with an enslaved man named Antonio Proctor, described in the records as “the best translator of the Indian languages in the province.”

Edimboro and Proctor served on the Spanish frontier together and Proctor’s valuable military service earned him his freedom.

Eusebia and Antonio’s freeborn son, George Proctor, became a master carpenter and builder in territorial Florida and George’s son, John Proctor, served in the Florida House of Representatives in the 1870s and in the Florida Senate from 1883 to 1886.

More than 100 descendants recently commemorated their family’s rich heritage in a public ceremony in Tallahassee, Florida where they mounted a memorial plaque in the Old City Cemetery.

These records show that black history in United States begins much earlier than previously thought. They also show that men, women, and children once thought forgotten left rich histories in these little explored sources.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122403931-88c1a0bd3da242009401b82ba0de98c9.jpgCardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Protesters hold placards outside the County Court where Cardinal George Pell is to arrive in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122403931-92f1f2785e1c49e7907d82600509fdc4.jpgProtesters hold placards outside the County Court where Cardinal George Pell is to arrive in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122403931-b58e1b34411b40e78ca792f1094858ca.jpgCardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse faces his first night in custody following a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that will decide his punishment for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral two decades ago. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
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