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SYDNEY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading Vatican cardinal is being charged with allegations of sexual abuse.
According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the country's state-owned and funded national public broadcaster, Cdl. George Pell, former archbishop of Sydney and current prefect of Rome's Secretariat for the Economy, is under investigation for multiple charges of sexual abuse dating back nearly 40 years.
The ABC report was confirmed by the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, who revealed a task force is currently looking into claims Pell abused male minors "in Ballarat East between 1976 and 1980 and East Melbourne between 1996 and 2001."
"A brief of evidence has been prepared and presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice," the statement from Ashton continues. "Once the advice from the D.P.P. is received it will be reviewed. However, as with any investigation, it remains a decision for Victoria police as to whether charges will be laid."
The allegations were made public in an ABC broadcast Wednesday night, followed shortly by an official statement from the office of Cdl. Pell denying the accusations. "[Cardinal Pell] emphatically and unequivocally rejects any allegations of sexual abuse against him," the statement begins. "He denies the allegations absolutely, and says that they, and any acceptance of them by the ABC, are nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign which appears to be championed by the ABC."
The allegations stem from claims made by two men, currently in their forties, who assert the cardinal touched them inappropriately in the 1970s; an additional individual makes the claim a similar incident occurred in the 1980s. A third complaint, this time dating back to the 1990s, involves two choirboys, one whi has since died.
The ABC and Victoria police force both maintain the evidence broadcast Wednesday was not the result of a leak from within the investigation.
"We haven't provided the ABC with materials," Commissioner Ashton asserts. "Anyone that saw the show last night, the victims, you could see their emotion, they are traumatized from what they are saying has happened to them, and are talking to the media about that."
This is not the first time the cardinal has faced allegations of sexual abuse. In 2002, while serving as archbishop of Sydney, Pell was accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy in the early 1960s while studying in the seminary. It was soon discovered the complainant had a questionable history, resulting in suspicion of his credibility; then-archbishop Pell was soon exonerated.
Cardinal Pell is also notable for having spearheaded efforts to "confront the evil of clerical child sexual abuse" by implementing the "first program to assist victims when he introduced the Melbourne Response in 1996."
"The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down," Pell stated in February while giving evidence to an Australian royal commission concerning his possible knowledge of active pedophile priests.