Cardinal George Pell flies from Rome to London as he strenuously denies new abuse allegations
Cardinal George Pell flew from Rome to London as explosive new details of alleged child sex abuse were levelled against ‘s most senior Catholic.
Lawyers for Cardinal Pell last night strongly denied the allegations and said they were false, “unjustifiable, scandalous, deliberate and calculated to cause the most shocking damage imaginable to Cardinal Pell”.
A soon-to-be-released book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, by ABC reporter Louise Milligan, contains detailed claims that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the late 1990s.
The legal letter also claimed the publication of the book’s allegations were a “deliberate attempt to influence the public opinion in a manner that would make it impossible for our client to receive a fair hearing in court should he be charged”.
The alleged abuse is said to have occurred after the introduction of the Melbourne Response, the compensation scheme for victims of clerical sexual abuse that Cardinal Pell established in 1996 after breaking ranks with the rest of ‘s bishops who had been working on a national scheme called Towards Healing.
A separate statement from his Rome office on Saturday night, in response to a request for comment on the allegations, accused the book’s publisher, Melbourne University Press, and media organisations including Fairfax Media of “interfering with the course of justice”.
“Cardinal Pell has not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria Police of the status of their investigations, which have been under way since at least February 2016,” the statement said.
“Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by MUP and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false. He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the Royal Commission.”
Cardinal Pell, who is one of the group of nine cardinals who act as a sort of cabinet for Pope Francis, last year told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he was too ill to return to to give evidence in person.
The book also contains new information about the cover-up within the church and allegations that Cardinal Pell knew about paedophile priests earlier than he claimed.
The spokesman for victims’ advocacy group Broken Rites, Wayne Chamley, said allegations surrounding Cardinal Pell have been around for years and it was unusual that the Catholic Church did not make people stand down while they were subject to such claims.
“Usually when a person at top level of an organisation becomes subject of any kind of [allegations of] criminality they would step aside until proceedings are finished,” he said. “For whatever reason Catholic bishops or senior figures don’t seem to do that at all.”
Dr Chamley said it was now a matter of waiting for the outcome of the ongoing police investigation. “Cardinal Pell has always denied any wrongdoing and he has always been willing to co-operate with authorities … but as the matter stands it is an ongoing investigation,” Dr Chamley said.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman told Fairfax Media the brief of evidence surrounding sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell remained with the Office of Public Prosecutions and it was unknown when it would be handed back to police.