Vat­i­can off­i­cal sum­moned to child abuse in­quiry


Vat­i­can fi­nance chief Ge­orge Pell was Mon­day called to give ev­i­dence at an in­quiry into sex abuse as one of Pope Fran­cis’ com­mis­sion­ers for the pro­tec­tion of chil­dren ac­cused him of be­ing “al­most so­cio­pathic.”

For­merly the top Catholic cleric in Australia, Cardinal Pell has be­come em­broiled in the probe in his home­land which last week heard ev­i­dence from pe­dophile priest Gerald Rids­dale, who abused at least 50 boys over two decades.

Pell, who ac­com­pa­nied Rids­dale to court in 1993 when he ad­mit­ted wide­spread abuse, has re­peat­edly de­nied know­ing about any of the of­fenses, help­ing move the priest to an­other parish or that he tried to bribe a vic­tim to keep him quiet.

That vic­tim was his nephew, David Rids­dale, who al­leged he con­fided in fam­ily friend Pell about the as­saults and that he was asked by him what it would cost to buy his si­lence.

Other vic­tims had de­manded Pell, who was ap­pointed by Pope Fran­cis in Fe­bru­ary 2014 to make the Vat­i­can’s fi­nances more trans­par­ent, re­turn to give ev­i­dence to The Royal Com­mis­sion into In­sti­tu­tional Re­sponses to Child Sex­ual Abuse.

The cardinal said last week he was will­ing to do so and on Mon­day the com­mis­sion of­fi­cially re­quested he ap­pear in per­son when the in­quiry next meets in the Vic­to­rian town of Bal­larat, at a date to be determined.

“The chair has re­ceived a let­ter from Cardinal Pell in­di­cat­ing that he is pre­pared to come to Australia to give ev­i­dence,” the com­mis­sion said in a state­ment.

“The royal com­mis­sion will ask him to give ev­i­dence in the sec­ond of the Bal­larat hear­ings.”

Peter Saun­ders, who was hand­picked by the Pope six months ago to be one of the church’s com­mis­sion­ers for the pro­tec­tion of chil­dren, said Pell not only had a moral obli­ga­tion to re­turn but should be re­moved from his Vat­i­can role.

He al­leged in an in­ter­view with Australia’s Chan­nel Nine that Pell had acted with “cal­lous­ness, cold­heart­ed­ness, al­most so­cio­pathic I would go as far as to say, this lack of care,” in his ap­proach to­ward abuse vic­tims.

“Given the po­si­tion of Ge­orge Pell as a cardinal of the church and a po­si­tion of huge author­ity within the Vat­i­can, I think he is a mas­sive, mas­sive thorn in the side of Pope Fran­cis’s pa­pacy if he’s al­lowed to re­main,” added Saun­ders, a Bri­tish sur­vivor of child sex­ual abuse.

“And I think it’s crit­i­cal that he is moved aside, that he is sent back to Australia, and that the Pope takes the strong­est ac­tion against him.”

‘Im­per­a­tive Pell re­turns’

A state­ment is­sued by Pell’s of­fice said the al­le­ga­tions were “false and mis­lead­ing.”

“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,” it said.

“Cardinal Pell has never met Mr Saun­ders, who seems to have formed his strong opin­ions with­out ever hav­ing spo­ken to His Em­i­nence.”

The state­ment added that “in the cir­cum­stances, the cardinal is left no al­ter­na­tive but to con­sult with his legal ad­vis­ers.”

Fran­cis Sul­li­van, head of the Truth, Jus­tice and Heal­ing Coun­cil, which is co­or­di­nat­ing the Catholic Church’s re­sponse to the in­quiry, said Pell should re­turn so “we get to see ev­ery­thing laid out in full.”

“Un­til we can get to that point, then all of the com­men­tary around this will con­tinue to swirl with­out us land­ing on what re­ally hap­pened.”

The royal com­mis­sion was called af­ter a decade of pres­sure to in­ves­ti­gate wide-rang­ing al­le­ga­tions of pe­dophilia in Australia.

It has heard har­row­ing al­le­ga­tions of child abuse in­volv­ing places of wor­ship, or­phan­ages, com­mu­nity groups and schools. Pell pre­vi­ously gave ev­i­dence, in per­son, in March 2014.


This file photo shows Aus­tralian Cardinal Ge­orge Pell, Pre­fect of the Sec­re­tariat for the Econ­omy of the Holy See, at­tend­ing a press con­fer­ence on March 31, 2014 in the Vat­i­can.

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