Cardinal Pell must publicly accept church abuse to start true healing

16th Nov 2012

“Cardinal George Pell must publicly acknowledge the widespread existence of child sexual abuse within the Australian Roman Catholic Church if he is genuinely concerned for victims and wants their true healing to start,” Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Andrew Morrison SC said today.

“How can Cardinal Pell stand at the pulpit and preach humanity and morality when his actions do not reflect his words? How can the church as an institution maintain spiritual integrity if he preaches love and compassion, but chooses not to show it,” Dr Morrison said.

Dr Morrison said a cathartic process was about to begin all over Australia with many victims reliving their demons and revisiting horrendous experiences of abuse, which, evidence showed, happened on Cardinal Pell’s watch and if he truly cared for victims, he needed to help ease their pain through acknowledgement.

He said the Victorian Upper House Inquiry, had heard Sydney University law Professor, Patrick Parkinson, state the incidence of abuse by a priest was six times more likely than in any other religious institution.

“It appears that rather than confront such alarming facts, Cardinal Pell continues to keep his eyes firmly shut to avoid the sting of the truth and, in doing so, becomes complicit in the continuation of deceit, perpetuation of harm, and damages the community standing of the church.”

Dr Morrison said Cardinal Pell asserted that church failure to report to police was now an historic problem. Yet, it was Cardinal Pell who oversaw the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing elsewhere, which meant the Church, should have reported all abuse by its clergy since 1997. However, Victorian police told the Inquiry more than 500 cases had been investigated within the Church and accepted as genuine – not one has yet been reported to police.

Prof Parkinson has complained to senior clergy in NSW that priests in the Salesian order continued to be moved offshore to protect them after abuse had been alleged. Cardinal Pell has not yet pointed to any case in his own archdiocese where abuse by priests has been reported to police.

“In 2002, when he was Melbourne Archbishop, instead of informing police following the accusation of one of Father F’s early victims, he recommended the traumatised victim approach the police himself. This does not appear to accord with the protocols in place in 2002 requiring such reporting,” Dr Morrison said.

Dr Morrison said overseeing criminal and civil law matters in relation to church practices and police response to such practices rested with the states and territories. These jurisdictions could empower Commonwealth Commissioners to ensure no constitutional problems arose.

“In this situation, given the scale of the task and the criminality involved, it may be appropriate to appoint multiple commissioners. The most senior would need to be of considerable standing, legal experience, ability, and have incredible empathy – someone not unlike former high court justice, Michael Kirby.

Tags: Victims of crime Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse