Cardinal George Pell says he has been left with “no alternative but to consult with his legal advisers” after an abuse survivor who sits on the Vatican’s child protection committee accused him of callousness and called for his dismissal.
The cardinal said he was considering legal action against Peter Saunders who on Australian television launched a bitter attack after a witness at the country’s Royal Commission accused Pell of trying to bribe an abuse victim.
Mr Saunders, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors set up by Pope Francis last year to improve church safeguarding standards, accused Cardinal Pell of “making a mockery of the papal commission, of the Pope himself, but most of all of the victims and the survivors.”
“He has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, almost sociopathic I would go as far as to say, this lack of care,” he told the Sixty Minutes programme.
He said Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney who is head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, should be “moved aside” and sent back to Australia to address the current Australian abuse inquiry.
A statement the cardinal’s office issued soon after the programme was broadcast, said Mr Saunders’ “false and misleading claims” were “outrageous”, adding that Pell would consult legal advisers. “From his earliest actions as an Archbishop, Cardinal Pell has taken a strong stand against child sexual abuse and put in place processes to enable complaints to be brought forward and independently investigated,” the statement continued.
Hours later on Monday the Vatican issued a clarification, saying Mr Saunders was “evidently” speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Commission, “which is not competent to investigate or to pronounce specific judgements on individual cases”. It added: “Cardinal George Pell has always responded carefully and thoroughly to the accusations and questions posed by the competent Australian authorities.”
Pell has come under intense pressure in recent weeks as the Royal Commission hearings into institutional child abuse has focused on the town of Ballarat, where he served as an assistant priest in the 1970s.
He has repeatedly denied claims that have resurfaced in the inquiry that he moved a priest accused of abuse between parishes and bribed a victim to drop a complaint.
This may well be my last post on kiwianglo for six weeks. Diana and I are setting off on Sunday, 7 June, for a European holiday, during which we hope to catch up with relatives and friends in the U.K. However, with the help of Diana’s I.Pad, I may just be tempted to comment on various topics as they catch my fancy – during a time of refreshment for us.
In the meantime, this was the latest item to catch my eye in this week’s issue of The Tablet in the U.K. Cardinal Pell – ex-Australia – seems to be having a hard time of it battling accusations of neglect of duty during his time in Australia, the the Roman Catholic Church in Australia neglected to deal effectively with clergy accused of paedophilia.
The Cardinal is presently serving the Vatican as its primary financial spokes-person in Rome, and is unhappy about the fact that the Advisor to the Vatican’s child protection committee, Peter Saunders (himself a survivor of sexual abuse), has recommended his removal from influence at the Vatican.
With our own problems relating to matters of gender and sexuality, we Anglicans will no doubt have an interests in seeding how this current problem for our Catholic friends is resolved – with a Trans-Tasman prelate as the focus of attention.
Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand