AC­CUSERS of Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell, and vic­tims of sex­ual abuse in the Catholic Church, have praised the de­ci­sion to lay crim­i­nal charges against him.

A lawyer for two men who have made abuse al­le­ga­tions against Car­di­nal Pell said they were “over the moon”.

Lawyer In­grid Ir­win said she had warned the men that the ul­ti­mate ver­dict was un­cer­tain.

“Nat­u­rally any­body with any knowl­edge of how the crim­i­nal process works, par­tic­u­larly of his­tor­i­cal sex­ual abuse cases, knows (this),” she said.

“It’s been very dif­fi­cult for them to stick their neck out,” Ms Ir­win said of the two men.

“To come out against some­one who is sec­ond to God, in some peo­ple’s minds, has caused all sorts of prob­lems for them.”

Vic­tims of abuse have praised the de­ci­sion to lay charges as “prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant ac­tion to be taken on be­half of sur­vivors of clergy sex­ual abuse in the his­tory of the church.”

Clergy sex­ual abuse sur­vivor An­drew Collins, 46, said news of the charges was some­thing he never thought he would hear.

“We didn’t think this day would ever come,” he said.

Mr Collins, who was abused by four men at Bal­larat schools and churches dur­ing his teenage years, said the an­nounce­ment was a step to­ward heal­ing.

“Car­di­nal Pell … is one of the most powerful men on the Earth,” Mr Collins said.

“The fact that some­one like (Pell) can be charged is such an en­cour­ag­ing sign.

“Ge­orge Pell is an icon in Bal­larat. For a lo­cal boy to go so far … it’s very sad that’s he’s in this po­si­tion now, and if he’s found guilty it will be very sad for a lot of peo­ple,” he said. Mr Collins spoke to the

Her­ald Sun at the un­veil­ing, at Bal­larat’s Town Hall, of a por­trait of De­tec­tive Sergeant Kevin Carson.

Det Sgt Carson was hon­oured for his work in the Bal­larat Sex­ual Of­fence and Child Abuse In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team, in­clud­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions of no­to­ri­ous pae­dophile Chris­tian Brother Robert Charles Best.

Steven Span­ner, a spokesman for sur­vivor group SNAP Aus­tralia, also wel­comed yes­ter­day’s lay­ing of charges against Car­di­nal Pell.

“The his­tory of the Catholic Church has been to squelch ac­cu­sa­tions, hide and shield per­pe­tra­tors, stonewall in­quisi­tors, and re­abuse vic­tims with os­tracism, iso­la­tion and coun­ter­ac­cu­sa­tions,” he said.

“SNAP is so proud that (Vic­to­rian po­lice) have shown the world that no one is above nor be­yond the law,” Mr Span­ner said.

Main pic­ture: GRE­GO­RIO BORGIA/AP

Catholic priests cross St Pe­ter’s Square at the Vat­i­can yes­ter­day on a day of high drama for the Catholic Church cen­tred around Car­di­nal Pell, pic­tured there this week (right).

An­drew Collins

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