Vic­tims to hear car­di­nal’s tes­ti­mony

Lesotho Times - - International -

BAL­LARAT — Vic­tims of clergy abuse won per­mis­sion on Mon­day to be present next week when Pope Fran­cis’s fi­nance min­is­ter tes­ti­fies from Rome to an Aus­tralian in­quiry into child sex of­fenses within the Ro­man Catholic Church.

Child abuse vic­tims an­gry that Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell will not re­turn to Aus­tralia to tes­tify at the Royal Com­mis­sion into In­sti­tu­tional Re­sponses to Child Sex­ual Abuse had re­quested that they be al­lowed to hear in per­son Pell’s tes­ti­mony by video con­fer­ence, the in­quiry’s chair­man Jus­tice Peter Mcclel­lan said.

“The com­mis­sion con­sid­ers that to be a rea­son­able re­quest,” Mcclel­lan said.

A crowd fund­ing web­site set up last week to raise $39 000 to send 15 abuse vic­tims and their sup­port­ers to Rome had raised more than $200 000 by Mon­day.

“The ex­cess money will be spent on men­tal health ser­vices at Pell’s home­town of Bal­larat, the web­site said.

The web­site said Sun­day that the sur­vivors were still await­ing an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment from the royal com­mis­sion on whether they would be al­lowed to be present when Pell tes­ti­fies.

Pell, whom the pope placed in charge of the Vat­i­can’s fi­nances in 2014, was to tes­tify next Mon­day for a third time at the royal com­mis­sion.

The in­quiry ruled this month that the 74-year-old cleric could give ev­i­dence by video from Rome be­cause he was too ill to fly to Aus­tralia.

Pell said in a state­ment last week that he would co­op­er­ate with what­ever ar­range­ments the royal com­mis­sion made for his tes­ti­mony.

Mcclel­lan said a ho­tel room in cen­tral Rome had been se­lected as the venue for Pell’s tes­ti­mony, but its com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment had yet to be tested.

Pell is to give ev­i­dence about how church au­thor­i­ties re­sponded to al­le­ga­tions of child sex abuse in Bal­larat and in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia’s se­cond-most pop­u­lous city af­ter Syd­ney.

He is ac­cused of cre­at­ing a vic­tims’ com­pen­sa­tion pro­gramme mainly to pro­tect the church’s as­sets and of us­ing ag­gres­sive tac­tics to dis­cour­age vic­tims’ law­suits, all while he was a bishop in Aus­tralia. He has de­nied any wrong­do­ing, say­ing he is the vic­tim of a smear cam­paign.

Mean­while, The Her­ald Sun’s rev­e­la­tions about Pell prompted global abuse sur­vivors’ net­work SNAP to call on Pope Fran­cis to im­me­di­ately sus­pend the 74-year-old from his se­nior role in the Vat­i­can’s bu­reau­cracy.

“Over a year, more than a dozen cops and they say they’ve found five or 10 al­leged vic­tims of Pope Fran­cis’s top aide,” SNAP spokesper­son Joelle Casteix said.

“That’s pretty cred­i­ble and se­ri­ous. For the safety of kids, the pon­tiff should sus­pend Pell.”

Pell has been de­rided for say­ing he is too ill to make the jour­ney home to tes­tify in per­son over the al­leged cover-ups.

He has al­ways de­nied know­ing about any abuse in Bal­larat. In his state­ment he at­tacked the leak­ing of de­tails of the on-go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the Her­ald Sun as ma­li­cious and the al­le­ga­tions against him as spu­ri­ous.

“The tim­ing of th­ese leaks is clearly de­signed to do max­i­mum dam­age to the car­di­nal and the Catholic Church and un­der­mines the work of the Royal Com­mis­sion (in­quiry),” the state­ment said. the pub­lic do­main since 2002,” it said.

“The Vic­to­rian po­lice have taken no steps in all of that time to pur­sue the false al­le­ga­tions made.

“How­ever, the car­di­nal cer­tainly has no ob­jec­tion to them re­view­ing the ma­te­ri­als that led Jus­tice South­well to ex­on­er­ate him.

“The car­di­nal is cer­tain that the po­lice will quickly reach the con­clu­sion that the al­le­ga­tions are false.

“The Vic­to­rian Po­lice have never sought to in­ter­view him in re­la­tion to any al­le­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse and apart from the false al­le­ga­tions in­ves­ti­gated by Jus­tice South­well, the car­di­nal knows of no claims or in­ci­dents which re­late to him.

“He strongly de­nies any wrong­do­ing. If the po­lice wish to ques­tion him he will co-op­er­ate, as he has with each and ev­ery pub­lic in­quiry.”

The new al­le­ga­tions against Pell came into the pub­lic do­main a day af­ter the pope in­sisted that any bishop who seeks to pro­tect preda­tory priests by mov­ing them to a dif­fer­ent parish should be obliged to re­sign.

That state­ment im­me­di­ately came un­der fire from cam­paign­ers who say that prin­ci­ple is rarely ob­served by Church hi­er­ar­chies around the world.

Fran­cis’s cred­i­bil­ity on the abuse is­sue has also been knocked this month by divi­sions within his own ad­vi­sory panel on cler­i­cal sex abuse.

Bri­tish abuse sur­vivor Peter Saun­ders has been asked to step down from the com­mit­tee amid a dis­pute over whether it should get in­volved in in­di­vid­ual cases.

Saun­ders told AFP this month that he felt be­trayed by the Ar­gen­tinian pope and that the cre­ation of the abuse panel had been a PR ex­er­cise. — AFP

Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell.

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