March 12 (UPI) -- Australian Cardinal George Pell was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s, becoming the most senior Catholic official to be jailed for committing sex crimes against children.
Pell, 77, was convicted late last year by a Melbourne court on one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years of age and four charges of committing an indecent act on children.
The ruling was only announced late last month due to a suppression order.
The former Vatican treasurer and former Papal adviser will spend three years and eight months behind bars before he is eligible for parole for the 1996 crimes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. He will also be registered for life as a sex offender.
Chief judge Petter Kidd said during sentencing that he was aware that Pell may not outlive his sentence.
"Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you," Kidd said, the Guardian reported.
Kidd said the sentence must demonstrate "grave consequences" of breaking the law and that since Pell maintained his innocence throughout the trial, it would not be reduced as he showed no evidence of "remorse or contrition." His crimes, Kidd said, displayed "staggering arrogance."
In 1996, Pell, then the Archbishop of Melbourne, had discovered the two choirboys drinking sacramental wine, one of the abused children, now a 35-year-old man, told the jury during the trial last year.
Pell had told the boys that they were in trouble. Then he revealed himself to them and forced one of the boys to perform oral sex on him and then fondled the other, the complainant said. Some time later, the complainant said he was again attacked by Pell who pushed him against a wall, fondled his genitals and then walked away.
The other boy, who never filed a complaint against Pell, died in 2014 from a heroin overdose.
"I think you did give thought or reflection to this offending and only reasonable inference from the brazenness of your reoffending is that you had a degree of confidence that the victims would not complain either immediately," Kidd said during sentencing, which was broadcast throughout Australia live from a Melbourne country court.
Pell did not seek to silence the children, Kidd said, because he did not feel it was necessary, and his second transgression carried the mark of "physical aggression and venom."
Kidd made clear that Pell was not being made a "scapegoat" for the Catholic Church's failings and he was being sentenced only for crimes the jury found him guilty of.
Though he didn't shorten the sentence, Kidd said he did impose a shorter non-parole period "in recognition in particular of your age, so as to increase the prospect of your living out the last part of your life in the community."
Pell has filed an appeal to be heard June 5.