Top Aide to Pope Francis Faces Sexual Assault Charges
What churches can take away from the controversy surrounding George Cardinal Pell.
Top Aide to Pope Francis Faces Sexual Assault Charges
Image: Jan Tielens / Unsplash

George Cardinal Pell—senior Roman Catholic prelate in Australia, Vatican treasurer, and aide to Pope Francis—faces charges of sexual assault.

Pell has denied the veracity of the “multiple charges” from “multiple complainants,” according to the BBC, and he plans to travel to Australia to fight them. The charges follow a history of controversy that has surrounded Pell throughout his career in the church, which “has been dogged first by claims that he covered up child sexual abuse by priests, and then later that he was himself an abuser.” Even after he arrived in Rome to take the position of Vatican treasurer, he “repeatedly faced allegations from abuse victims of a cover-up . . . He strongly denied the allegations, describing them as a ‘scandalous smear campaign.’”

According to a report in The New York Times, he is “the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses,” and “[t]he case will test the credibility of [Pope] Francis’s initiatives to foster greater accountability after abuse scandals that have shaken the church around the world.”

The charges against Pell—and the accusations that have followed him for years—serve as a sober reminder to churches about the prevalence of the issue of sexual abuse in the church. As attorney Richard Hammar writes, “[F]or several years the sexual molestation of minors has been the number one reason that churches went to court.”

Don’t let your church join the statistics. Learn more about the preventive steps you can take with our newly revised training program Reducing the Risk and the thorough, practical guidance provided in these articles from legal and risk management experts:

Emily Lund is Assistant Editor for Church Law & Tax.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to for access to more articles like this one.

Recent Posts
Subscribe to Church, Law & Tax
Does Your Church Need a Security Guard?

Does Your Church Need a Security Guard?  Subscriber access only

Keeping your church safe from gun violence.
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws

Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws Subscriber access only

Did you know pastors and other church staff may be required by law to report child abuse and that laws on this vary state by state?