Senior Catholic Church officials have rarely faced charges in the sexual abuse of children. Here are a few who did.

Los Angeles Times

By Alexandra Zavis

Victims rights groups have long complained that criminal accountability for the sexual abuse of children by members of the Roman Catholic clergy has rarely extended above the level of priests, despite evidence that bishops and archbishops knew about many of the suspected crimes — and in some cases played a role in the abuse.

On Thursday, Cardinal George Pell became the highest ranking Vatican official to be formally charged with sexual assault in connection with the scandals that have dogged the church for decades.

Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial advisor, had already faced questioning last year by a royal commission in his native Australia over accusations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. More recently, accusations surfaced that he himself had abused boys going as far back as the 1970s, when he was a priest in Ballarat.

At a news conference Thursday, Pell said that the pontiff had given him leave to appear in court in Melbourne next month, and that he was looking forward to the opportunity to clear his name.

While criminal charges have been brought against more than 100 priests in Australia alone, few senior Catholic prelates around the world have been brought to account. Here are some of those cases:

Jozef Wesolowski

The Polish former archbishop was the first high-ranking official in the Roman Catholic Church to be sent before the Vatican’s own criminal court on charges of sexual abuse. Accused of paying shoeshine boys for sex while serving as papal nuncio, or ambassador, in the Dominican Republic, he was recalled by Francis in 2013 and defrocked the following year. While living at the Vatican, he was found to have child pornography on a computer. He died before his trial could begin in 2015.

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