Cardinal George Pell was one of the highest ranking and most powerful figures in the Catholic Church. When he was convicted of sexual crimes against two 13-year old boys, it shook the already trembling credibility of the church. In Guilty: The Conviction of Cardinal Pell, ABC News Australia outlines the troubling saga of Pell, his many victims, and the plague that continues to fester from deep within the church.
In 1996, while church leadership was floundering in the midst of rampant child sexual abuse allegations, Pell was serving as the Archbishop of Melbourne. The Archdiocese of Melbourne was home to more pedophile priests than anywhere else in the country. In light of this, Pell launched an in-house damage control initiative designed to "lessen the sufferings of the victims". Even while he maintained a position of authority as an advocate for child safety, he was engaging in the same behaviors he protested when behind closed doors.
The film features detailed descriptions of the abuse Pell inflicted on the children in his church choir. The revelations are obscene and disturbing, but essential to understanding how Pell was able to use his authority, access and influence to his advantage.
Detectives, lawyers and child advocates join the discussion to discuss the church's efforts to conceal these types of accusations. They argue that the church has remained implicit in these scandals for too long, and that seismic internal reforms are long overdue to combat this sickening epidemic.
Most impactful are the insights from the families of the victims. In tearful interviews, these parents discuss the spiral their children suffered in the aftermath of Pell's abuse. In less than 20 years, one of them would be dead of a heroin overdose. The other - now a young man - was able to summon the courage to reveal his abuser's crimes to the authorities. Perhaps finding empowerment in numbers, additional abuse claims would soon start flooding in from other child clergy members.
Guilty: The Conviction of Cardinal Pell is not an easy watch, but its frank and unforgiving approach brings a crucial sense of urgency to this crisis.