Cardinal George Pell was taken into custody Wednesday after his lawyer argued that one of his offenses was a “plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating.”
Lawyer Robert Richter made the claim while pushing for a lower sentence in a Melbourne court on Wednesday morning, asserting that the 77-year-old former Vatican treasurer had “no aggravating circumstances” and was likely “seized by some irresistible impulse,” The Guardian reports.
Pell, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic leader to be found guilty of sex abuse, faces sentencing on March 13 after he was convicted of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old boys.
While his defense lawyer pushed for a lighter sentence by downplaying the severity of the offenses—suggesting that one assault was only “fleeting” and claiming the victims would have showed signs at home if they were “truly distressed”—the judge pushed back on what he described as “callous, brazen offending” and “shocking conduct” by Pell.
Pell's defense team wound up unexpectedly withdrawing a bail application, meaning the disgraced clergyman could spend up to two weeks in jail before his sentencing next month. It was not immediately clear why the application was withdrawn.
The one-time close adviser to Pope Francis was found guilty in December on five charges of indecent acts and sexual penetration of a child for sexually assaulting two choirboys at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the late 1990s.
Pope Francis held a landmark sex abuse meeting earlier this week to protect children “from ravenous wolves,” yet the head of the Roman Catholic Church was criticized for his failure to outline specific steps to address the problem.