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Australia police weigh abuse charges after investigating top Catholic

Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks to journalists at the end of a meeting with sex abuse victims at the Quirinale hotel in Rome on March 3, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) Australian police said they were considering whether to lay charges against the Vatican’s Australian-born treasurer, Cardinal George Pell, after investigators handed over their recommendations.

Pell, who before his Vatican appointment was archbishop of Sydney, has rejected any involvement in alleged child abuse in Australia, which local media have reported dated from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Victoria State Police said in a statement on Wednesday (May 17) that it had received advice from the state’s Director of Public Prosecutions over “a current investigation into historical sexual assault allegations.”

Detectives will now “consider that advice” before deciding whether to press charges, police said in the statement released in response to questions about 75-year-old Pell. The statement did not name Pell or offer any detail about possible charges.

Pell’s Vatican spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The current archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, issued a statement calling media reports about the investigation “relentless character attacks” on Pell that turn the “principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head.”

“It is unfortunate that in the very week this happens media and authors publish and repeat allegations, some of which have already been thoroughly answered,” Fisher’s statement said.

“This cannot assist the impartial pursuit of justice. Cardinal Pell has cooperated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and Royal Commission investigations,” he added.

Church sexual abuse broke into the open in 2002 when it was discovered that U.S. bishops in the Boston area moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them. Similar scandals have since been discovered around the world.

Pell was a priest in rural Victoria in the 1970s and 1980s before he became archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and archbishop of Sydney in 2001. He took the Vatican role in 2014.

In October last year, Australian police said they interviewed Pell in Rome in relation to allegations of sexual assault.

Pell’s office confirmed at that time that he participated in the interview and said he rejected “all and every allegation of sexual abuse.”

Pell told an Australian government inquiry into institutional child abuse that the church had made “enormous mistakes” and “catastrophic” choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish and over-relying on counseling of priests to solve the problem.

Australia’s Catholic Church has paid A$276 million ($213 million) in compensation to thousands of child abuse victims since 1980, the government inquiry heard in 2016 — the first time the total compensation paid by the church‘s schools, orphanages and residences has been revealed.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Swati Pandey)

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9 Comments

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  • Pope Francis’ first administrative action after his election was to form an advisory Council of Cardinals. He chose cardinals George Pell and Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa who, like himself, had made national headlines for protecting pedophiles. (bishop-accountability.org)

  • Will anyone in the RCC sacrifice themselves for the truth? Will any of these men in the name of truth and justice speak up. This scandal just continues to fester, reinflame itself, poison all because there is no truth coming from the RCC.

  • The reputation and image of the church is more important than the truth. But the truth is out and their reputation is forever stained. Now it’s about protecting their own reputations and staying out of prison.

  • It’s very sad when someone in a position of what one would expect to be trustworthiness transgresses that position. It causes a lot of harm
    It is also very sad when someone in a position of trustworthiness has not transgressed against it, and is maimed by a false accusation.

  • The stark reality of child abuse by priests makes me wonder if there is a God who would allow this to happen. After all, these priests were God’s friends. I can’t believe in that kind of demon.

  • Awwww, those poor persecuted child molesting and child molester enabling catholic priests and bishops.

    so persecuted.

    Google Roger Bishop Vangheluwe, a Belgian-bishop-theologian. He admitted abusing his own nephews, but said he did not see himself as a pedophile.

  • Mark 9:24 – Mark 9:42 ESV
    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

    1 John 1:6 – If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

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