Australian cardinal launches appeal against child sex abuse convictions

Australian cardinal launches appeal against child sex abuse convictions
Picture: AP

The most senior Catholic to be found guilty of sexually abusing children has lodged an appeal in Australia's highest court against his convictions for molesting two choirboys in a cathedral more than two decades ago.

The High Court registry confirmed that Cardinal George Pell had lodged a 12-page application for the seven judges to consider hearing his appeal.

A unanimous Victoria state County Court jury in December found Pope Francis's former finance minister guilty of abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, in the late 1990s.

The Victoria Court of Appeal last month rejected his appeal in a 2-1 ruling.

Pell, 78, was sentenced to six years in prison in March and is no longer a member of Francis's Council of Cardinals or a Vatican official.

The High Court is Pell's final chance to overturn his convictions, but there is no guarantee that Australia's final arbiter will hear his appeal.

The court only agrees to hear around one in 10 of the appeals applied for.

Pell's lawyers must first persuade a High Court judge that the full bench should agree to hear his appeal.

The court only hears significant cases that raise questions of law that are important to the broader community or involve conflicts between different courts.

Pell was largely convicted on the evidence of one victim. The second victim died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2014 when he was 31 without ever alleging he had been abused.

The surviving victim said after Pell lost his appeal in August: "I just hope that it's all over now."

Clerical sexual abuse and the Catholic Church's handling of such cases worldwide have thrown Francis's papacy into turmoil.

In a little more than a year, the pope has acknowledged he made "grave errors" in Chile's worst cover-up, Pell was convicted of abuse, a French cardinal was convicted of failing to report a paedophile, and a third cardinal, former US church leader Theodore McCarrick, was defrocked after a Vatican investigation determined he molested children and adults.

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