By Philip Pullella | VATICAN CITY
The charging of a top Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, with sex-abuse crimes this week will permanently stain the legacy of Pope Francis, exposing poor judgment in his appointment, victims of sexual abuse said.
Francis’ appointment of Pell, dogged for many years by victims’ allegations that he shielded abusers and had himself molested two young boys in the 1960s, underscores a lack of sufficient vetting for top Vatican posts, Vatican sources said.
Pell, appointed as Francis’ economy minister in 2014, has always strongly denied he molested children or turned a blind eye to abuses. On Thursday, Australian police charged him with historical sex crimes after a two-year investigation.
The charges bring the Church’s global abuse scandal to the heart of the Vatican and, according to victims and their advocates, weaken the pope’s credibility in tackling a decades-old crisis against which he vowed “zero tolerance”.
“I think his legacy is under severe threat,” said Peter Saunders, a victim of clergy abuse who took a leave of absence from the papal advisory commission on abuse last year in protest over a lack of progress.
“I genuinely thought when I met with Francis three years ago that ‘this man is the real deal’ and he is going to get on with things and I really thought there was a prospect of real, significant, and rapid change,” Saunders, a Briton, said in a telephone interview.
“But he is surrounded by people who don’t want change.”
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