George Pell could be stripped of his top Order of Australia honour if his bid to overturn convictions for five child sex offences fails.
It is understood if Pell’s appeal is rejected in court, the prime minister’s office would ask the Council for the Order of Australia to consider revoking his honours.
The council has the power to recommend the governor-general revoke Pell’s 2005 appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), the nation’s highest honour.
“We are unable to comment on individual cases regarding the consideration of the termination or cancellation of an award in the Order of Australia,” a spokesman for the governor-general told AAP.
Senators Derryn Hinch and Sarah Hanson-Young have led calls for Pell’s honour to be revoked after a jury found Pell guilty of five charges over the 1996 offences against two choirboys.
Revoking Pell’s AC would be similar to disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris losing his Officer and Member of the Order of Australia honours after being convicted of indecently assaulting four girls in the UK.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said he was deeply shocked at the crimes Pell was convicted for.
“I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn’t,” he said.
Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, was removed as Richmond Football Club’s vice-patron, a symbolic position he had held since 1997.
His former school, St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, also took his name off a building that had been named in his honour.