Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly prepared to strip Cardinal George Pell of his Order of Australia designation following the conviction of Australia’s most senior Catholic official for sex offences committed 22 years ago.
News.com.au reports the Prime Minister’s office is set to ask the Council of the Order of Australia to rescind Pell’s honourifics should his appeal on the conviction fall through. The Governor-General would then be asked to officially rescind Pell’s claim to Australia’s highest civilian honour.
Pell, who served as Archbishop of both Melbourne and Sydney before becoming the Catholic Church’s third-highest ranking member at The Vatican, was designated a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005.
The 77-year-old, who was in December found guilty of orally raping a choirboy and sexually molesting another at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral, was recognised at the time for “raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature, to education, and to social justice.”
At time of writing, Pell is still listed as a Companion of the Order of Australia on the official Australian Honours Search Facility database.
Pell was convicted on the charges in December last year, but a suppression order prevented the media from reporting on the conviction. The court-mandated order was intended to prevent potential juror bias in a separate trial, but that trial was dropped yesterday, ending the suppression order and permitting the media to openly report on the matter.
Pell has signalled his intention to challenge the conviction at the Court of Appeal.
The Vatican itself is highly unlikely to strip Pell of his duties and high standing in the Catholic Church until that appeal process has run its course.
But barring a successful appeal, the Australian court system has already made its judgment on Pell eminently clear.