1 Jun 2015

Vatican-based Australian cardinal under attack

5:45 pm on 1 June 2015

The Vatican's finance chief Australian cardinal George Pell is seeking legal advice after being accused of an "almost sociopathic" approach to child abuse allegations.

Cardinal George Pell has denied claims he tried to bribe the nephew of paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale to stay quiet

Cardinal George Pell Photo: AAP / file

The allegations came from Peter Saunders, a member of the Vatican's own commission on child protection.

Mr Saunders told Australian media the cardinal was a "massive thorn" in the side of the papacy.

Cardinal Pell has offered to testify in a major Australian inquiry into institutional child sex abuse.

He is accused of silencing a victim of a paedophile priest and aiding the priest's move to another parish.

Mr Saunders, who was appointed by Pope Francis last year to the new commission to protect children, on Sunday said Cardinal Pell - the most senior Australian Catholic cardinal - had a "catalogue of denial" about child abuse in the church.

Mr Saunders told Channel Nine TV the cardinal should be sent back to Australia.


"Personally I think that his position is untenable because he has now a catalogue of denials," said Mr Saunders, who is himself a victim of paedophile priests.

"He has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, almost sociopathic I would go as far as to say, this lack of care," he said about the Cardinal's handling of abuse claims.

"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."

A spokesperson for Mr Pell on Monday described the claims as "false and misleading" and said the Cardinal would now consult with his legal advisers.

"Cardinal Pell has never met Mr Saunders, who seems to have formed his strong opinions without ever having spoken to His Eminence," said the spokesperson in a statement.

"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," the statement said.

Abuse investigation

Australia is investigating how schools, churches and the government responded to child abuse cases.

A royal commission has been hearing testimony from victims in Ballarat in the state of Victoria, where priest Gerald Ridsdale had sexually abused dozens of boys in various parishes between the 1950s and 1970s.

Cardinal Pell has been accused of being complicit in moving Ridsdale around the state, and of attempting to bribe Ridsdale's nephew into keeping quiet about his abuse.

Ridsdale, 81, is in jail for offences against child victims.

Last Thursday the commission released a letter from Cardinal Pell saying he was "horrified" by the accounts given in Ballarat.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was formed in April 2013, following pressure from lawmakers amid police claims that the Roman Catholic Church had concealed evidence of paedophile priests.

There were revelations that child abusers were being moved from place to place instead of being reported to and investigated by police for their alleged crimes.

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