Cardinal George Pell, who is the third highest ranking official in the Catholic Church, is to plead not guilty to a string of non recent child sexual offences.
Pell is also the most senior Catholic church official to be charged with sex offences to date.
The first hearing took place in Melbourne, and although not required to enter a plea prior to the case being committed to trial, chose to make the not guilty plea at the hearing due to media and public interest.
As we reported last month, Pell has already been heavily criticised for perceived failures in investigating non recent child sexual abuse allegations when he was found to have let victims down by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
His conduct during a trial for a survivor of child sexual abuse also casts a shadow over his fitness to practice as a member of the clergy. The Commission found that Pell did not act ‘in a Christian manner’ during a court battle against a survivor who said he had been abused as a teenager by a priest from 1974 and 1979. Pell had bullied and intimidated the survivor, and used the threat of court costs repeatedly to try and force the survivor to withdraw his case.
Speaking about his own trial in June, Pell said he is “looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously.”