Inés San Martín VATICAN CORRESPONDENT
Although Cardinal George Pell of Australia is the first cardinal and Vatican official to face criminal charges related to sexual abuse, he’s hardly the first Catholic bishop to be prosecuted on those grounds, and also not the first Vatican official to face a criminal indictment. A rundown of several such recent cases allows one to compare and contrast with the Pell situation, including the fact
Given news that Australian Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and a member of Pope Francis’s “C9” council of cardinal advisers, has been criminally charged with sexual abuse in his native Australia, the question naturally arises of whether such a situation is unprecedented.
Unsurprisingly for an institution with a history as long as the Catholic Church, the answer is “yes and no.”
In fact, no cardinal, and no sitting Vatican official, has ever before faced a criminal indictment for sexual abuse. On the other hand, several figures in both categories have faced criminal charges for a variety of other offenses, and other Catholic bishops around the world have faced abuse charges, which offers the possibility to compare and contrast with the Pell drama.
In 1982, American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, at the time head of the Vatican Bank, was implicated in a massive financial scandal that led to the collapse of an Italian bank. Italian authorities issued a criminal indictment against him, forcing him to remain locked on Vatican property until the country’s Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that as a Holy See passport holder, he enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
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