Secret fund for Cardinal George Pell's sex abuse defence

A secretive fund's been set up in Australia to defend the most senior ranking Catholic ever to be charged with sexual abuse.

While Cardinal George Pell is the third highest ranking cleric in the Vatican, the Church won't fund his legal defence - but churchgoers have decided to do it themselves.

Until now Cardinal Pell was the Vatican's money man, in charge of the colossal coffers of the Catholic Church around the world.

But as he returns to Australia to fight historical sex abuse charges, he'll do so with the Vatican's backing, but without its financial might.

The Catholic Church won't fund his defence so his supporters have started their own collection.

"Everybody is entitled to a fair trial and if that enables him to have a fair trial, that should be the case," one contributor said.

Cardinal Pell's due in court this month, facing charges from multiple complainants who allege he abused them decades ago.

The Cardinal's hired a pricey QC and the bill could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But his defence fund isn't an open donation drive. It's a private bank account, the details of which are being kept closely guarded by those in the know.

And churchgoers are split over whether Christian charity should extend to someone accused of such sin.

While the church won't cover his legal fees, it is still supporting its former Archbishop.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney will provide the Cardinal with accommodation for a case which could take years to resolve.