Cardinal George Pell, once one of the highest-ranking members of the Vatican, was convicted of multiple counts of child sexual abuse during a trial in Australia in December, becoming the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to be found guilty of such crimes.
Pell, 77, was found guilty of five counts of historical sexual offenses related to the sexual abuse of two choirboys in 1996 and 1997, shortly after he was made the archbishop of Melbourne. A jury reached the verdict in December, but the media was barred from reporting on the news because of a court-imposed gag order.
He will be sentenced on Wednesday and is expected to serve prison time. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years, according to The Associated Press.
The cardinal was once the third-most-powerful figure in the Catholic Church, serving as the de facto finance chief, and was close with Pope Francis. Pell was removed from his role as one of the pope’s advisers in December after the verdict was reached.
The media has been prohibited from covering the trial because of a sweeping suppression order meant to maintain the integrity of criminal trials in Australia. The orders are relatively common in the country, and news organizations that break them can be subject to heavy fines and jail time.
The Washington Post was among the first to report the conviction in December but other American outlets, including HuffPost, could not do the same because they have staff in Australia. A similar story was first published by The Daily Beast, but the outlet geo-blocked the report in Australia in an attempt to comply with the gag order.
“We understood there could be legal, and even criminal, consequences if we ran this story,” Noah Shachtman, the editor of The Daily Beast, said at the time. “But ultimately, this was an easy call. You’ve got a top Vatican official convicted of a horrific crime. That’s major, major news. The public deserves to know about it.”
This is a developing story, check back for updates.