Cardinal George Pell returned to Australia this week to face charges of sexual assault. A top adviser to Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell denies the accusations and says he looks forward to his day in court…more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Like many other countries, Australia has uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse by priests and cover up by bishops. In 2016, Cardinal Pell testified by video from Rome before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Asked about allegations that he mishandled such cases when he was the leader of the archdioceses of Melbourne and, later, Sydney, he said, “I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” and described the abuses as a catastrophe for the Church.
Then a book by Louise Milligan, a reporter for Australia’s ABC, detailed allegations of sexual abuse by Pell himself over the course of decades. A statement from the Cardinal’s office described the book as an exercise in character assassination. Last month, Australian police filed what were described as historical charges, citing multiple complainants.
At a news conference in Rome, Cardinal Pell declared himself entirely innocent: “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me,” he said.
Just a few hours after Cardinal Pell arrived on Monday, The Royal Commission released documents from its investigations. Just a coincidence, the Commission said. It’s previously reported more than 4,000 claims of child sexual abuse and estimated that 7 percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children from 1950 to 2010. The Commission’s final report is due out in December.
Cardinal Pell is due in court for a procedural hearing next week.