Cardinal George Pell, who used to be a top adviser to Pope Francis, has been ordered to stand trial over historic sexual offences.
Pell, a former finance chief at the Vatican, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to be charged with sex abuse.
The 76-year-old cardinal, who is also the leading Catholic authority in Australia, pleaded not guilty to several charges in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on May 1.
After weeks of the preliminary hearing, Magistrate Belinda Wallington told the court that she was “satisfied” there was sufficient evidence in “multiple” charges against the cardinal for a trial by jury, according to The Guardian.
More details about the charges cannot be reported for legal reasons.
The cardinal, who has been on leave from the Vatican, was charged by Victoria Police last year after multiple people reported him for sexual misconduct.
Authorities have said that the charges are “historical” sexual assault offences because the crimes allegedly took place decades ago.
Pell has a long history of anti-gay statements.
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In 1990, he said: “Homosexuality – we’re aware that it does exist. We believe such activity is wrong and we believe for the good of society it should not be encouraged.”
He added: “There are many smorgasbord Catholics who choose a bit of this and that… my business as bishop is to proclaim the whole of the message.”
Almost a decade later, when a study discovered that there was a connection between homophobia and suicides among Catholic teenagers, he once again condemned being gay.
“If they are connected with homosexuality, it is another reason to be discouraging people going in that direction,” he said.
“Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.”
When he was the Archbishop of Sydney in 2006, Pell responded to moves towards adoption being legalised for same-sex parents by saying that children should have a “mother and father.”
He said the church would present “sociological findings” to prove their claims and would “never anticipate” Christian adoption agencies supporting the law.
Then in 2007, Pell said gay people did not deserve the same protections against discrimination as racial minorities.
The cardinal said: “Whatever issues of basic justice remain to be addressed, I am not sure that it is at all true to say that homosexuals today suffer the same sort of legal and civil disadvantage which blacks in the United States and elsewhere suffered 40 years ago and, to some extent, still suffer.”