From The New York Times:
Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking official, must stand trial on several charges of sexual abuse, an Australian court ruled on Tuesday, promising to prolong a case that has already dragged on for months, and which many see as a moment of reckoning for a church racked by scandal.
Belinda Wallington, a Melbourne magistrate, found there was sufficient evidence for prosecutors to bring the cardinal’s case to trial, ending a two-month pretrial hearing, in which witnesses described abuse they said took place decades ago.
But the majority of charges against the cardinal were either withdrawn or dismissed, including several of the most serious allegations, which were said to have taken place in a playground, on an altar, on a mountain top, and during a 1970s screening of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in Ballarat.
Cardinal Pell, 76, is the most senior Roman Catholic official to be charged with crimes of sexual abuse. As the Vatican’s de facto finance chief, he was granted leave by the pope to return to Australia to conduct his defense.
When asked to enter a plea, the cardinal said “not guilty.”
The cardinal has been accused of “historical sexual offenses,” meaning they took place decades ago, but the details of the criminal complaint, including the identities of his accusers, have not been made public. Such cases are subject to Australia’s strict contempt standards, and other legal restrictions, which prohibit journalists from reporting on details of criminal allegations.
Robert Richter, the cardinal’s lawyer, said last year there was “voluminous” evidence to prove that “what was alleged is impossible.” Mr. Richter argued that Cardinal Pell was being targeted for the worldwide failing of the Catholic Church to protect victims of abuse.