Vatican in damage control as George Pell faces court in Melbourne

Vatican in damage control as George Pell faces court in Melbourne

George Pell, the third most senior Vatican official, was charged with historical sex offences last month. His charges include at least one count of

Photo: Reuters/Alessandra Bianchi

Photo: Reuters/Alessandra Bianchi

George Pell, the third most senior Vatican official, was charged with historical sex offences last month. His charges include at least one count of rape. Pell has voluntarily returned home to face a Melbourne court today.

Pell has denied any wrongdoing. But these charges—along with his prior attempts to absolve the Vatican of responsibility for its dark history of sexual abuse—have further tainted the Church’s reputation.

Having a high-ranking official tried for the very crimes that have plagued it for decades will place the Vatican into reputational damage control. The handling of a controversy is often more important than the controversy itself. Pope Francis must tread carefully when responding to the verdict to be issued. If found guilty, showing leniency toward such a high-ranking official will imply complacency in this sensitive and ongoing issue.

This could negatively affect the Vatican’s already dwindling popularity, particularly in Western countries such as the US and Australia.