60 Minutes broadcasts an extraordinary development surrounding Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell.
“I think it’s critical that George Pell is moved aside, that he is sent back to Australia, and that the Pope takes the strongest action against him.” These are the damning words of Peter Saunders, the man handpicked by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
In an interview with Tara Brown in Rome, Peter gives a wide-ranging and damning assessment of Cardinal Pell’s actions to date, and calls for Pope Francis to move against him.
STATEMENT FROM SPOKESPERSON FOR CARDINAL GEORGE PELL
31 May 2015 10.45pm
Cardinal Pell has been informed of the contents of the 60 Minutes program this evening. The false and misleading claims made against His Eminence are outrageous.
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.
Cardinal Pell has never met Mr Saunders, who seems to have formed his strong opinions without ever having spoken to His Eminence.
In light of all of the available material, including evidence from the Cardinal under oath, there is no excuse for broadcasting incorrect and prejudicial material.
In the circumstances, the Cardinal is left no alternative but to consult with his legal advisers.
STATEMENT BY SPOKESPERSON FOR CARDINAL GEORGE PELL
31 May 2015
Cardinal Pell has not seen the material that 60 Minutes is planning to broadcast this evening.
The Cardinal has not met and has not been approached by Mr Saunders.
Cardinal Pell knows of the important work Mr Saunders has done as a survivor of abuse to assist victims, including the establishment of a victims survivors group in the United Kingdom and more recently serving as member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established by the Holy Father to develop policy to achieve this.
While members are of course entitled to their views and opinions, the recently approved Statutes of the Commission make it clear that the Commission's role does not include commenting on individual cases, nor does the Commission have the capacity to investigate individual cases.
From the promotional material issued by 60 Minutes it seems clear Mr Saunders is not well informed about the claims made against Cardinal Pell in the Ballarat hearings of the Royal Commission and the fact that no new material emerged during recent hearings. Many of the issues were addressed in the final report of the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry where there are no adverse findings against Cardinal Pell. These old and repeated allegations have been addressed many times by the Cardinal since 2002.
As was pointed out in a recent statement by the Cardinal, he has never condoned or protected offenders, has never condoned or participated in moving known offenders and did not at any time attempt to bribe David Ridsdale, whose story has varied many times over the years.
It is not clear whether Mr Saunders is aware of the Cardinal's statements or has reviewed the extensive material available from previous Inquiries and appearances at the Royal Commission. It is also not clear if Mr Saunders is aware Cardinal Pell established within 100 days of being appointed as an Archbishop, an independent scheme to support victims. While there was and is always room for improvement, the Melbourne Response had the explicit support of the Victorian Police and other civil authorities and was at the time warmly welcomed by victim support groups.
The Cardinal has repeated many times his deepest sympathy for the victims of abuse and their families. He has made it clear on several occasions he supports the work of the Royal Commission, where he has already appeared twice, and remains willing to assist in its work.
Learn more about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse here.