Oscar-winning movie ‘Spotlight’, which focused on sexual offences of the clergy, appears to be playing out in Australia as the country’s seniormost Catholic figure has been charged with sex offences in Victoria.

Cardinal George Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to be facing criminal charges of sexual offence. He was previously accused of mishandling cases of misconduct by the clergy when he was the Archdioceses of Melbourne and Sydney.

The police said that multiple cases against Cardinal Pell were recorded and the cases involve multiple complaints. However, the Cardinal, who is based in the Vatican, vehemently denies these accusations and is said to be returning to Australia to clear his name and prove his innocence.

As per a BBC report, “Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors who will also advise on his travel arrangements. He said he is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously,” the Church said in a statement on Thursday (June 29).

“Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons, and he is required to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on July 18,” Shane Patton, the deputy police commissioner, said at a news conference. However, he refused to provide further details about the accusations or the nature of the allegations.

“The process and procedures that are being followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offences, whenever we investigate them,” Commissioner Patton added. “Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else.”

According to the New York Times, Louise Milligan, a reporter for Australia’s ABC network, said that “she had interviewed the cardinal’s accusers for more than a year and that some episodes were said to have occurred at a pool in Ballarat, a city in Victoria where the cardinal was born and where he returned after being ordained as a priest in Rome”.

Some men, now in their 40s, have come out and said, “He would play games like throw the kids out of the water.”

“You know, his hand touching your genitals and stuff on the outside of your bathers or shorts. And then that slowly became hand down the front of the pants or your bathers or whatever you call them,” The Telegraph recorded.

Victim groups and other support groups are extremely happy with the decision of the Australian police. They are elated to see that the Cardinal is being treated as any other offender and hope that he will be rightly charged and proven guilty for his action. This is not the first time a clergyman has been accused of sexual offence. Many people have repeatedly attacked the Vatican for its response to the crisis, saying successive popes have failed to grasp the gravity of the situation.