Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will move to strip George Pell of his Order of Australia honour. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will move to strip George Pell of his Order of Australia honour. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

PM moves to strip Pell of Order of Australia

EXCLUSIVE

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison will move to strip Cardinal George Pell of his Order of Australia honour after the senior Catholic was found guilty of sexually abusing two choirboys.

News.com.au understands the Prime Minister's Office will make an application to the Council of the Order of Australia to revoke Pell's appointment.

Pell was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia - the highest honour under the scheme - in the 2005 Queen's Birthday list for "service to the Catholic Church in Australia and internationally, to raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature, to education and to social justice".

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will move to strip George Pell of his Order of Australia honour. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will move to strip George Pell of his Order of Australia honour. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Mr Morrison said yesterday that he was "deeply shocked" by the Pell verdict.

"I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all those who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn't," he said.

"Their prolonged pain and suffering will not have ended today. While due process continues, our justice system has affirmed no Australian is above the law."

An appointment to the Order of Australia can be terminated under the section 30 of the council's constitution if it receives an application for an honour to be reviewed.

If the independent body decides to take the matter further, Pell would be offered the chance to respond.

Ultimately, the council could then make a recommendation to the Governor-General for the honour to be revoked.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at County Court in Melbourne this morning. Picture: AAP Image/David Crosling
Cardinal George Pell arrives at County Court in Melbourne this morning. Picture: AAP Image/David Crosling

A jury found Pell guilty in December of five counts of child sexual offences committed against two 13-year-old boys in a Melbourne church in late 1996. The verdict was subject to a suppression order until yesterday, when a planned second trial against Pell was dropped.

Pell is the highest-ranking Catholic to have been found guilty of child sex crimes.

Other Australian institutions have moved to strip Pell of honours after yesterday's verdict.

The Richmond Football Club has revoked Pell's honorary position, and St Patrick's College in Ballarat has removed his name from a building.

Pressure is mounting on the Vatican to defrock Pell, but Pope Francis has resisted calls to condemn the man, who has long been part of the pontiff's inner circle.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti called the verdict "painful news" but said it would not take any immediate disciplinary action until Pell's appeal was determined.

"We await the outcome of the appeals process, recalling that Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence and has the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal," Gisotti said.

He confirmed, however, that Pell was "no longer" the Vatican's economy minister.