SYDNEY, Australia.- Australian Cardinal George Pell, currently under arrest pending his conviction on five charges of child sexual assault, was sued Thursday for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor committed in the 1970s.
The Supreme Court of Victoria confirmed the filing of a civil suit against, in addition to Pell, the state of Victoria, the trustees of the Sisters of Nazareth House (formerly St. Joseph’s) as well as the family and child services of Ballarat city.
«The plaintiff’s name cannot be disclosed. Additionally, the file is not available for searching, so the writ/statement of claim or any other documents filed in this matter will not be released by the Court,» the court said in a statement.
The plaintiff, who is believed to have lived at Ballarat’s St Joseph’s Boys Home run by the Sisters of Nazareth, would be one of the alleged victims of a case that was dismissed last week in which Pell was accused of abusing several children in a swimming pool in Ballarat, his hometown.
The alleged victim, who was to give his testimony in the criminal case against Pell, referred to as the «swimmers trial», wants compensation for psychological damage, loss of wages and medical expenses, his lawyer said earlier this week.
The case of the Ballarat swimming pool was one of the two proceedings faced by the 77 year-old prelate since last year which was under a suppression order that prevented any details from being disclosed.
In the first case, a jury on Dec. 11 found Pell guilty on five charges of sexual abuse, including one for oral penetration, against two children under 13 years in the cathedral of St Patrick’s, in Melbourne, in 1996.
The guilty verdict was not made public until Feb. 26, when the judge lifted the suppression order on the proceedings against Pell, who was imprisoned on Feb. 27 pending his sentencing on Apr. 13.
Pell insists he is innocent and his defense team has filed an appeal against the ruling, arguing that it is «unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence» and that the jury could not decide «beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone».
After the verdict, the Vatican announced that Pell no longer occupies the position of financial chief at the Catholic Church and has been forbidden from performing his priestly duties or coming in contact with children in any way.