Alleged victims of abuse of Cardinal George Pell gave testimonies this week during a hearing in an Australian court which will determine if he will face a trial.
The committal hearing for the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy took place at the Melbourne Magistrate Court, and will allow prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence for a jury trial. The hearing began last week and is expected to take about a month to complete.
This week, the hearing was closed to media and the public while alleged victims gave testimony to the court through a video link. The courtroom reopened to the public Wednesday afternoon.
The total number of charges brought against Pell are not public, although some of the charges previously brought against Pell date as far back as 1961. In January, a key charge against Pell was dropped after the complainant died of leukemia.
Pell, 76, is being represented by four lawyers and intends to plead not guilty if his case goes to trial. He has said that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Last summer, Pope Francis granted Pell a leave of absence from his duties as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy while the claims are investigated. Pell is also a member of the Pope’s council of nine cardinal advisers.
On Thursday, a father of one of the alleged victims, both of whom cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he found out his son had been abused by Pell from his other son. The alleged victim was so traumatized by the event that he would not talk about it, the father noted.
"He would not talk about it. He was just abused," he said, according to court reporters. "That's all he told me.”
Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter QC, questioned the father as to why he did not mention Cardinal Pell by name in the initial police reports about the incident, and accused him of making up the accusation.
The father of the alleged victim called the accusation an “insult” and said he had not made it up. In the initial police report, the father stated that his son had been abused by “multiple priests.”
Other accusations brought against Pell included those from Broken Rites, an advocacy group for victims of clerical abuse. According to the Associated Press, a volunteer from the group testified against Pell based on statements made from the mother of an alleged victim to the group.
The Vatican has refrained from stating a judgement or opinion on the Pell case, pending the outcome of the investigations by the Australian court.
The hearing for Cardinal Pell is ongoing and will resume next week.