Soul searching: Australia loses faith as sexual abuse cases mount
BALLARAT, Australia (Reuters) – Ballarat was the sort of regional Australian town where mothers with Irish surnames prayed their eldest sons would enter the priesthood, and fathers would reach for their soft brim hats whenever Catholic clergy walked by.
It’s now the sort of place that is losing its faith, compounded by the imprisonment of one of its most famous sons, Cardinal George Pell, who was sentenced on Wednesday to six years in jail for sexually abusing two choir boys in the 1990s.
Pell has maintained his innocence and his lawyers have appealed his conviction.
Allen Stephens, a 76-year-old Ballarat resident, said Pell’s conviction was evidence of a broken institution.
“The whole community of church-goers is diminishing dramatically,” said Stephens, who like many of his era was baptised as a child but is not active in the church.
“The abuse has certainly hastened the lack of interest in the church.”
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