Carter: Pell case is a reminder that power and influence shouldn’t affect sentencing

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Photo Courtesy of AFP

Devin Carter, Staff Columnist


On March 12, 2019, former Catholic Church cardinal and Vatican chief financial officer, George Pell, was sentenced to serve six years in prison for the molestation of two young boys in 1996. I was outraged to hear this. The crimes for which he was convicted are, to me, among the most detestable acts that a human being could do. And the fact that Pell held such a powerful and influential position made my anger even greater, since it looked like yet another example of power and influence winning over law and order.
I do not think that I have to spend any time convincing you or anybody else that Pell’s crimes were hideous, nor do I think people will need convincing that people of power have a much easier time avoiding punishment than those who are powerless. Other factors, like the fact that he will be eligible for parole after less than four years, and that the judge considered things like Pell’s age and influence when he handed down the light sentence, makes this situation even more outrageous. I’m certain that many people who are reading this article are every bit as furious about the sentencing as I am.

And yet, while I was thinking about the entire situation, I was able to see a silver lining. And I would like to bring attention to my realization in the hope that others who feel similarly to myself can take at least a little amount of positivity away from all of this. This situation is undoubtedly yet another example of power winning over justice, but people like myself, who believe in the rule of law over all other things, can take some comfort from the fact that, despite the leniency, Pell was still given a prison sentence. And, although he may be able to walk free before some of us have graduated from college, he will still be listed as a sex offender for the rest of his life. In this situation, justice was still served, even though it may not have been to the degree it should have been.

But we can look back through history to find evil people who used their position to escape justice, and it is very likely that these instances will continue to happen until the end of time. It would not have been a shock to have seen Pell walk free, considering the position he once held. Hopefully, despite the light sentence, this case marks a turning point for how we deal with powerful people who break the law and commit horrid acts.

Maybe, just maybe, this will start a trend where we as a people can look world leaders in the face and show them that they are not above the law. I know this is not likely to happen, at least not all the time, but hopefully we will start seeing less people walk away freely, and more people being served justice.

With that being said, I am absolutely NOT ok with this sentencing. I may even go so far as to call it, in and of itself, an injustice. But maybe it would be asking too much, at this point, to ignore the influence and power that these individuals hold. It certainly should not be taken into account when it comes to the crimes they have committed, and in rendering appropriate punishments. And hopefully we can get to the point where there is complete impartiality in our courts, whether that is in the United States, Australia, or anywhere else.

But let’s not look at this as a loss. A man who was one of the top-ranking officials of the largest Christian denomination in the world is in prison because he broke the law. In the past, he probably would have gone free. We should always look to further justice, and we should be critical of this sentencing. But this is still a victory for those who believe in the sanctity of the law, and it should be viewed as such.

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