The CDF is the Vatican body with the power to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clerics. Earlier this year it dismissed from the clergy – ‘defrocked’ — American archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who had earlier resigned his position as cardinal.
McCarrick was found guilty of a series of acts of abuse against minors and adults.
On Tuesday the Vatican had issued a more cautious statement, saying it would “await the outcome of the appeals process, recalling that Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence and has the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal.”
It is unclear how far the CDF will progress its investigation before Pell’s appeal against his verdict in Australia is heard.
Canon law specifically sets out the process for handling abuse allegations.
The court will take statements from witnesses and victims, then enter into a long exchange of written arguments through a panel of judges. Former sexual abuse cases against bishops have taken years, and their findings can be appealed by both prosecution and defence.
This was not the case with McCarrick: under some circumstances a shorter “administrative penal process” can leave out many of the procedural stages in order to move more quickly to a judgement.
In McCarrick’s case, the court took just over a month to consider and dismiss his appeal against their decision.
However this abridged process is only used when the evidence from the preliminary investigation is considered so strong that a full trial isn’t needed.
Church law includes the possibility that the CDF would present the “most grave” cases to the Pope himself to decide.
The Vatican spokesman also confirmed that, as previously reported by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Cardinal Pell is no longer Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy after his five year term expired on Sunday.
Nick Miller is Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age