Cardinal Pell says Church 'mucked things up' over sex abuse

Australian Cardinal George Pell, Vatican’s Finance Minister, commenting on Vatican child abuse scandal says Church “mucked things up” and “let people down”

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Senior Counsel Assisting Gail Furness stands in front of a screen displaying Australian Cardinal George Pell as he holds a bible while appearing via video link from a hotel in Rome, Italy to testify at the Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional R

Updated Mar 1, 2016

Australian Cardinal George Pell said the Catholic Church has made “enormous mistakes” and “let people down” in its handling of systematic sex abuse by priest as he began his three-day-long public testify on the Catholic Church scandal.

Swearing on the Bible Pell in front of abuse victims, Pell said in a hotel room in Rome that children were often not believed and abusive priests shuffled from parish to parish.

“Let me just say this as an initial clarification, and that is, I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” Pell, who serves as finance minister in Vatican told Australia’s Royal Commission into Intuitional Response to Child Sexual Abuse.

“The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down. I'm not here to defend the indefensible." 

Pell who has blamed for wrongdoing in mishandling the cases of abusive clergy when he was archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney until 2014.

Australian inquiries have concluded previously that Pell has aggressively tried to discourage victims from pursuing lawsuits as he created a victim’ compensation program for this aim.

However, seven Australian archbishops responded the allegations in a statement last year saying that Pell was a man of integrity who is committed to the truth and helping others, particularly those who have been hurt or who are struggling.”

Pell said several times that he was aware of rumours and complaints against pedophile clergy when he was a young priest in the 1970s, but that Church superiors tended to give priests the benefit of the doubt, something he acknowledged was wrong.

Victim’ supporters gathered outside of the Commission’s hearing rooms hold their hands in prayer and carried signs saying “Pope Sack Pell Now” and “Pell go to hell.”

One of the victims, Thrish Carter stating in Sydney that she was abused between the ages of four and eight at an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy said, “senior moment” was not the situation on such case after Pell repeatedly said he couldn’t recollect the incidents being put to him, at one point citing “a senior moment”.

“He is an intelligent man, he is in such a high position, we all have our senior moments but not on something like this," Carter said.

During his hearing Pell defended the church as he blamed patterns of the societies. He said the faults which are “dismissed in absolutely scandalous circumstances” were personal rather than structural failings.

"Unfortunately, original sin is alive and well," Pell said.

"There's tendency to evil in the Catholic Church too and sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse but for good or for ill the Church follows the patterns of the societies in which it lives."

Child sexual abuse scandal was first broken in 2002, when it was discovered pedophile priests were not defrocked but have been moved from parish to parish instead by the bishops in the Boston area. The same year, Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston.

But, similar cases have been discovered since 2002 around the world and tens of millions of dollars have been pain in compensation to victims.

The hearing of the Pell came ahead of the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood where “Spotlight”, a film about the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Boston, was nominated for six Academy Awards.

TRTWorld and agencies