By Tiffanie Turnbull-BBC News, Sydney
https://www.bbc.com-Image source, Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell had convictions quashed in 2020 but now faces a civil lawsuit
The father of a choirboy who prosecutors alleged was sexually abused by Cardinal George Pell has launched a lawsuit against the cleric and the Catholic Church.
The man is seeking damages for mental injury that he suffered after learning of the allegations, his lawyers said.
In 2018 Cardinal Pell was convicted of abusing two choirboys in the 1990s.
But Australia’s top court later quashed the convictions. Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence.
The Australian cleric had spent more than a year in prison when he was released in 2020 following a successful appeal.
One of the choirboys’ fathers has now lodged a civil claim against Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Neither the man nor his son – who died in 2014 – can be named for legal reasons.
The court will hear the case for the first time on Thursday.
Who is Cardinal Pell?
He rose to prominence in the Church as a strong supporter of traditional Catholic values, often taking conservative views and advocating for priestly celibacy.
Cardinal Pell was summoned to Rome in 2014 to clean up the Vatican’s finances, and was often described as the Church’s third-ranked official.
He left the Vatican in 2017 to fight the charges against him in his home state, Victoria.
In December 2018, a jury found him guilty of sexually abusing the two 13-year-old choirboys in the mid-1990s. He was the highest-ranking Catholic figure to receive such a conviction.
But in his appeal to the High Court of Australia, the cleric argued that the jury’s verdict had relied too heavily on evidence from the surviving former choirboy. His lawyers did not try to discredit that testimony, but argued that other evidence had not been properly considered.
The court’s seven judges ruled unanimously in his favour, saying that other testimonies had introduced “a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place”.