Category Archives: Archdiocese of Melbourne
Abuse responsibility not equal: Pell
In compelling evidence to the child abuse royal commission, George Pell has explained how responsibility for protecting children is shared in the church.
Cardinal George Pell says he had ‘no interest’ in Gerald Francis Ridsdale’s offending in the mid-1970s and was not told the priest was being moved because he was a pedophile
Cardinal Pell, who was then a Ballarat priest, says he did not know that Ridsdale’s offending was common knowledge in the Victorian parish of Inglewood in 1975 and did not know about the allegations.
“It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me,” he told the child abuse royal commission from Rome, drawing gasps from some observers in the room.
“The suffering, of course, was real and I very much regret that, but I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated.
He was asked if it was not necessary to avoid repeat offences to fully understand the circumstances of cases like Ridsdale.
The cardinal said that everyone in the church approached the task differently according to their level of responsibility.
Ms Furness asked him if he was saying it was not the case that if a parish priest heard of events dangerous to children happening in a neighbouring parish or a distant parish he had no responsibility to the children who were in danger.
Cardinal Pell: “Well, very obviously I said nothing of the sort. I said that a person from a neighbouring parish or distant parish has less responsibility for the care of children in those distant parishes than he does in his own.”
He told commission chair Justice Peter McClellan that he agreed that every member of the church had a responsibility to do what they could to protect children.
He also agreed that office bearers had a greater responsibility.
Cardinal Pell also said that Bishop Ronald Mulkearns lied to him about Ridsdale.
Former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns knew about complaints against Ridsdale when he moved him between parishes but Cardinal Pell said he was not told about it when he was an adviser to the bishop from 1977.
Cardinal Pell said the bishop and senior cleric Monsignor Leo Fiscalini deceived him and other advisers at meetings which discussed moving Ridsdale.
The commission has heard Ridsdale’s offending was common knowledge in at least two parishes but Cardinal Pell maintained he did not know.
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said Cardinal Pell would be held to be culpable if he, like Bishop Mulkearns, did know about the offending.
Cardinal Pell said that was correct.
“It is very clear of course that the decision is one of the bishop’s, that the consultors only have an advisory capacity and of course all of us have to respect the evidence,” Cardinal Pell said.
Pell account unbelievable: Abuse survivors
Child sex abuse survivors say it’s unbelievable a man of Cardinal George Pell’s intelligence was unaware of a pedophile priest’s offending when two Victorian communities and local clergy knew about it.
The cardinal told the child abuse royal commission on Monday night that while he was on a Ballarat diocese committee that advised on the transfers of priests he was never told of the offending of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale in the 1970s.
Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, now head of the Vatican Treasury, met the pontiff after his initial grilling by the commission and told reporters before resuming his evidence on Tuesday: “I have the full backing of the Pope”.
By videolink from Hotel Quirinale in Rome he told the commission sitting in Sydney that then Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns and his advisor Monsignor Fiscalini had deceived him by not telling him Ridsdale was moved between parishes because of his offending.
Ridsdale was able to continue his offending as he was shifted from one parish to another as “talk” began among parishioners about his interfering with children.
His nephew David Ridsdale, who was sexually abused by his uncle, is among a group of survivors hearing the cardinal’s evidence in Rome and told reporters it appeared the Catholic Church was behaving “with lies and deceit” within its own structure.
He said he assumed Victorian Police would be taking up the matter in relation to church officials moving pedophile priests to parishes where they could continue their offending.
‘We’ve ended up with the ears of the world’: Abuse survivors adamant fight will go on
The abuse survivors who travelled to Rome to hear his evidence spoke to reporters moments after Cardinal Pell completed his final day on the stand in Rome.
David Ridsdale, a victim of pedophile priest, his uncle Gerald Francis Ridsdale, said the fight for justice was far from over.
“We wanted to make sure the commission [for Cardinal Pell] was the same process that we faced when in Australia,” Mr Ridsdale said.
“We feel that has been achieved. But so much more has happened. We’ve ended up with the ears of the world.
“So, please, understand that while we’re fighting one battle in Ballarat, we’re hoping to steamroll a whole deal more, and this is a worldwide institutional problem, not just the Catholic Church, this went on for so long and everybody knew, everybody knew.
“And it is about time that we addressed the past and look forward to the future, and I can assure you that is the goal of all the survivors that you have met.”
‘In the loop’
On his fourth day on the stand in Rome, Cardinal Pell said he would have been aware of concerns raised by parents from the Victorian parish of Doveton in a 1991 letter to the Catholic Education Office that said Searson was going into the boys’ toilets, watching boys in the shower and taking children into the presbytery without permission.
He said he did not investigate the matter because it was the responsibility of the CEO and the Vicar General.
“If they’d asked my opinion I would have given it,” he said.
He agreed that he was “in the loop as far as knowledge of Father Searson being a risk to children” but said the issue was the level of risk and “just what could be done within church and state law”.
The commission also heard that a student at St Patricks College in Ballarat told Cardinal Pell that Brother Edward Dowlan was “misbehaving” with boys in 1974.
Cardinal Pell said the boy “mentioned it casually in conversation” and did not ask him to do anything.
Asked by Commissioner Peter McClellan what he did with the information, Cardinal Pell replied: “I didn’t do anything about it”.
Eventually, he said, he inquired about the matter with the school chaplain but did not go immediately to the school to find out what was going on.
“With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more,” Cardinal Pell said.
Lawyer Peter O’Brien, representing a former student of the Christian Brothers from Ballarat, asked Cardinal Pell “why on earth” he did not mention the complaint to police or insurance companies involved in cases brought against the Christian Brothers about Dowlan since the 1990s.
Cardinal Pell said it was because he had “no idea that the Christian Brothers were covering up in the way in which it’s now apparent”.
Dowlan continued to abuse dozens of children until 1985 but Cardinal Pell said he could not have done something to stop the crimes.
Pell denies offering bribe to keep abuse victim quiet
Earlier in proceedings, Cardinal Pell denied asking a nephew and victim of pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale what it would take to keep him quiet.
David Ridsdale told the commission when he told Cardinal Pell in 1993 he had been abused by his uncle, the then Melbourne bishop asked him: “I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.”
Cardinal Pell said he felt sorry for Ridsdale, but repeatedly denied the claim.
Mr Ridsdale’s lawyer Stephen Odgers SC asked: “Was it the case that you didn’t have much interest in what David Ridsdale told you about the crimes of Gerald Ridsdale?”
Cardinal Pell replied: “That’s completely untrue and David has never claimed that.”
Cardinal Pell said there was a radical misunderstanding between himself and Mr Ridsdale over their 1993 telephone conversation.
“I’m not even sure what keeping quiet means,” Pell said.
“I do dispute that.
“But for a man who was expressing a preference for a church hearing rather than going to the police, I wouldn’t have had any dispute with him on that score, although I have never impeded or discouraged anyone from going to the police.”
Pell said it was a “disastrous coincidence” that five pedophiles ended up at the one Victorian school and parish in the 1970s.
Four pedophile Christian Brothers taught at Ballarat East’s St Alipius Boys’ School and pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale was the parish priest.
Pell also emphatically denied telling another priest that Fr Gerald Francis Ridsdale was abusing boys.
Former altar boy BWE has testified he overhead Cardinal Pell tell Fr Frank Madden before a funeral in Ballarat in 1983: “Ha, ha, I think Gerry’s been rooting boys again.”
“Let me begin by saying that nearly every detail in this allegation is manifestly false,” Pell said.
Fr Madden has previously told the inquiry Cardinal Pell never said that.
Cardinal Pell also said he deeply regretted the impact the abuse had on survivors’ faith, saying “Of course one of the other things I regret as a Catholic priest is the damage that these crimes do to the faith of the survivors, of the victims and their friends and family and generally throughout the society. I lament that”.
Cardinal Pell told the commission on Wednesday the church in the 1970s and 1980s was a world of crimes and cover ups and he was left in the dark about serious sex abuse allegations against priests and brothers in Ballarat and Melbourne.
Cardinal Pell also said he regretted his choice of words when he told the commission on Tuesday he had no interest in Father Ridsdale’s offending in the mid-1970s.
Cardinal Pell said he completely messed up the sequence of events while giving evidence and had believed he was responding to questions about when he was a Melbourne official in 1993.
Pell’s claim he was deceived ‘is wrong’
27 APR 2016 – 6:30PM
From the Link: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/04/27/pells-claim-he-was-deceived-wrong
A hearing into abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne winds up with former education officers expressing anger at Cardinal Pell’s allegations of deceit.
Three former Catholic education officers have denied Cardinal George Pell’s claims their office deceived him about the activities of a violent and sexually abusive priest.
Former Catholic Education Office director Monsignor Thomas Doyle and his deputy Peter Annett told the sex abuse royal commission of their shock, disappointment and anger on hearing Dr Pell allege the office withheld information about pedophile priest Peter Searson in the 1980s.
Cardinal Pell, an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne in the ’80s, told the royal commission in March education officials were fearful of telling him the full story about Searson because they knew he would be “decisive” and not accept the status quo.
In giving his evidence from Rome where he is now the Vatican’s finance chief, Dr Pell also said he thought the education office at the time was protecting Archbishop Frank Little.
But Mgr Doyle and other witnesses categorically denied this was the case.
“I don’t agree with that evidence. I don’t agree that the Catholic Education Office intended to deceive Bishop Pell, so I thought his statement was wrong,” the Monsignor told the commission on Wednesday.
He was disappointed with the Cardinal’s claims.
“I don’t think they were true,” he said.
The now retired priest also said the office would have welcomed then Bishop Pell’s assistance in removing Searson.
The commission has heard evidence Searson threatened one little girl by holding a knife to her chest, sexually molested children in confession and threatened people with a gun.
Searson died in 2009 without being charged.
He was suspended from duty in 1997, a year after Dr Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne.
The commission has also heard that Archbishop Little ignored repeated requests to remove Searson.
Mr Annett said on Wednesday at one stage in the late ’80s the number one priority for the office was to get Searson removed from the parish.
“I would have thought our staff would be completely frank with Bishop Pell and be cheering from the rooftops if he was able to take action,” he said.
He said he had to admit to “some shock” at what Dr Pell said in Rome.
“I was disappointed and perhaps angry, but certainly very disappointed,” Mr Annett said.
Mr Annett, Mgr Doyle and former education consultant Allan Dooley said there was never any instruction to keep information from then auxiliary bishop Pell.
A fourth witness, former education official Catherine Briant who in 1989 took over as zone officer with responsibility for Doveton from Mr Dooley, said she was not briefed on problems at the Holy Family school.
She dealt with complaints he was bullying and harassing staff. She had no dealing with Bishop Pell, nor was she ever instructed to keep information from him, she said.
The hearing into widespread clerical abuse in Melbourne, which started last November, concluded on Wednesday.
Former Catholic Church insider calls for police and royal commission to subpoena secret ‘red files’
From the Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-17/call-for-catholic-church-red-files-to-be-subpoenaed/7252882
A former Catholic Church insider has called on police and the royal commission to subpoena all of the church’s secret clergy abuse documents — known as the “red files”.
- Church insider says full extent of abuse will not be known without access to all files
- They contain forensic material, criminal activity by clergy, statements from parents, she says
- Ex-Vicar General told her files were to be marked ‘never to be opened’
Helen Last, a former coordinator of the Melbourne Archdiocese’s Pastoral Response Office, said the full extent of church abuse would not be known until all the documents were made available.
“These files should be handed over, they are of important public interest, they have forensic material in them, they cover criminal activity by clergy, they cover the anguish and information of parents and parishioners speaking to the Vicar General at the time,” she said.
“They are of great importance to the truth of what has happened here and the victims and the public want the truth but they are only getting part of the truth at the present time.”
Ms Last first learnt of the red files from the late Monsignor Gerry Cudmore, who set up the Pastoral Response Office in the 1990s.
Ms Last said Monsignor Cudmore ended up resigning as Vicar General because he did not like Cardinal George Pell’s handling of abuse claims, which he thought was too legalistic.
“[Monsignor Cudmore] was talking to me directly about his files which contained highly important materials, and he pointed to the filing cabinet and said that will be marked ‘never to be opened’,” Ms Last told Lateline.
“He meant that those files would be put into the Archdiocese archives and they were so serious that they were to be pretty much locked down and not used in any way.”
Secret files sent to the Vatican: insider
Lateline has been told that police were unaware of the existence of the red files until 2013.
A former insider from the Melbourne Archdiocese said under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, a directive was sent out requiring that all abuse-related files be sent immediately to Australia’s Papal ambassador, known as the Nuncio.
The Murphy Report into clergy abuse in Dublin noted that when Mr Lazzarotto was Nuncio in Ireland he refused to respond to requests for church documents.
The Melbourne Archdiocese insisted they still had their red files and that all files requested by the royal commission and the police have been handed over.
Abuse survivor Stephen Woods is concerned that some secret files are now in the Vatican.
“We know that files were taken out of Ballarat and taken to the Vatican. We want those files returned,” he told the media in Rome earlier this month.
But Francis Sullivan, the chief of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said there should be copies in Australia of any files that were sent to the Vatican.
Documents should be accessed by royal commission: survivor
In response to Ms Last’s call for all the secret files to be subpoenaed, Mr Sullivan said: “There’s no point us turning up and swamping them with documents when they already have so many documents they are working through in a forensic fashion.”
“If they want more, if they want them in a specific area, if they want them in a gradual serial approach that’s what we do.”
Mr Woods said it was important to victims that all the files are accessed by the royal commission and the police.
“The victims really want justice and we really want to see all aspects covered, not just having a bishop go into the dock and say I don’t remember,” he said.
“Let’s have the files, let’s see what they knew, let’s see more aspects of justice be done.”
Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears
Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears
By Pat Stavropoulos and Samantha Donovan
From the Link: Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears
A survivor of child sex abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest and a family member was asked by police if she was wearing a neon sign saying “come and get me” above her head when she was a teenager, an inquiry has heard.
Witness Julie Stewart broke down as she told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that she was repeatedly abused by Father Searson at Doveton, from when she was in grade three.
The inquiry heard that when she was 15, she was approached by police about allegations against Father Searson after they received reports she was a possible victim.
She said because she had also been sexually abused by a relative from the ages of five to eight, she found it hard to tell anyone she had also been abused by Father Searson.
She said her admission that she had been abused by two men prompted the police officer to remark “oh my God, what, were you wearing a neon sign above your head, ‘come and get me?'”.
The police took no further action.
She told the inquiry she would blame herself, often thinking there was something wrong with her.
Priest’s abuse began in primary school
Ms Stewart said the abuse began at the Holy Family School, where Father Searson was the parish priest.
She said he would often visit her class and hug the children, including her.
“At first I loved the attention,” she said.
“He was a priest, and it made me feel special.”
Ms Stewart told the royal commission Father Searson abused her between 12 and 14 times, beginning in 1984.
“It began with kisses on the lips,” she said.
“On about the fifth time and on each subsequent occasion, Father Searson also touched me.
“When he started to touch me, I knew it was wrong and it was sexual.”
After that, she said she would wear tracksuit pants or stockings to make it harder for him to touch her.
She told the inquiry the last time she went to confession was in 1985, when she was in grade four.
On that occasion, Father Searson placed her on his lap, so she could feel his erection against her backside.
“He pushed me hard against him. It hurt. He whispered in my ear, ‘you are a good girl, the Lord forgives you’,” she said.
“I snapped, I pushed myself off him, I ran out of the confessional, I was sobbing and hyperventilating.”
‘I will no longer be a victim’: Julie Stewart
Ms Stewart also spoke about how she tried to take her life as a young teenager.
She said she had become rebellious and hated her parents.
It was not until late 1996, or early 1997, after a chance meeting with a former teacher that she was told a Queen’s Counsel had been hired by then Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell to investigate Father Searson.
She said a year later, she received a cheque of $25,000 from the Archdiocese and a letter of apology from Cardinal Pell, through the Melbourne Response.
But she said the hearing to resolve her claim was distressing.
“I was made to sit facing Father Searson, and I was questioned by his lawyer for a long time,” she said.
“I was not prepared for how hostile the cross-examination was.
“I was taken into another room and asked to sign a confidentially agreement. I don’t remember what it said but I signed it. I just wanted to leave.
“When I left the hearing I broke down and cried … I felt that the whole process re-traumatised me.”
She completed her testimony, saying she still cried for the little girl she once was, but that she wanted to be a voice for survivors.
“The little girl that never got to be a normal little girl, doing all the things that little girls should do, the little girl that always wanted to fit in but always felt like a weirdo,” she said.
“Nothing can ever give that back to me. It is a life sentence and every day I make a choice to keep going.
“It is important to me to tell my story now, because I want peace for myself.
“I’m not ashamed anymore and I no longer blame myself. I will no longer be a victim.”
Peter Saunders, the man who wants to bring Cardinal George Pell to justice
- June 1, 2015
Pope’s commissioner for child protection says Cardinal Pell is a ‘dangerous individual’ and ‘almost sociopathic’
Pope’s commissioner for child protection says Cardinal Pell is a ‘dangerous individual’ and ‘almost sociopathic’
- June 1, 2015
Tony Abbott defends Cardinal Pell’s role in church handling of abuse
- November 14, 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended Cardinal George Pell’s role in the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse cases, saying he deserved credit for being the first senior churchman to act.
Interviewed on Fairfax radio on Thursday following the release of a Victorian parliamentary report into institutional sex abuse, Mr Abbott said the church hadn’t handled the issue well, but defended Cardinal Pell.
“The only thing I’d say … is that my understanding is that the first senior cleric who took this issue very seriously was in fact Cardinal Pell,” he said.
Mr Abbott said it was well known that he had a lot of time for Cardinal Pell.
“Does that mean that he is perfect? No. Does that mean that he doesn’t bear some responsibility for the errors of the church? Of course not,” he said.
But he said Cardinal Pell was “a fine human being and a great churchman”.
Mr Abbott had not read the Victorian government’s report on clergy child sex abuse, but said that in the past the issue “wasn’t handled well” by the Catholic Church and had to be taken seriously.
“Of course, all of the institutions which have in the past – and maybe even still – not handled this thing well need to lift their game, and obviously anyone who has committed the hideous breach of trust involved in child abuse needs to be brought to justice,” he said.
He added: “I suspect that it wasn’t just the church that didn’t handle these things well.
“A generation ago, there was this general view in our community that certain things just didn’t happen. We all know now that they did happen. It was hideous, it was gruesome. It cost some people their lives. It cost some people their sanity.”
The 800-page parliamentary report said Cardinal Pell’s evidence revealed “a reluctance to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the Catholic Church’s institutional failure to respond appropriately to allegations of criminal child abuse”.
It was scathing of the Catholic Church’s leadership prior to the 1990s, giving specific examples in which former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns and former Melbourne Archbishop Frank Little moved known sexual offenders between parishes without reporting them to police.
Mr Abbott said the issue could have, and should have, been handled better, but he didn’t know about cover-ups.
“I just don’t know for a personal fact what was done,” he said. “I absolutely know that it wasn’t handled well.”
His comments came as the Catholic Church said it was prepared to fund an unlimited national compensation scheme for child sexual abuse victims.
The church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council – a national mouthpiece established after the royal commission was announced – issued a statement saying that it would ask the attorneys-general of the federal, state and territory governments to begin working on the scheme.
The Victorian parliamentary report recommended an independent redress scheme run by the government but paid for by non-government organisations to replace the Catholic Church’s internal systems for dealing with victims – called Melbourne Response, and its national equivalent Towards Healing – which victims criticised throughout the inquiry as lacking transparency.
The Catholic council chief executive Francis Sullivan said governments should consider extending the state inquiry’s proposed scheme nationally, and that it should have consistent investigative powers and payments.
“A national compensation scheme, funded by the church and other organisations, and with no caps on payments, is an important first step in taking away from institutions such as the Catholic Church the role of investigating complaints and determining compensation for victims,” he said.
This departs from the church’s traditional position to argue that its internal processes were proof that its approach to abuse had improved over time.
The Catholic Church’s Melbourne Response scheme currently places a $75,000 cap on victims’ compensation claims in Victoria, while its national equivalent, Towards Healing, is unlimited.
In Good Faith & Associates director Helen Last has said that the church had settled thousands of claims outside of Melbourne Response, in an attempt to silence them.
Mr Francis said the state inquiry’s recommendation, coupled with the royal commission’s potential to do the same, should be enough for governments to consider a national approach to child sexual abuse and child protection.
He said: “We will also call on all governments to start working towards a national approach to uniform police reporting requirements and statutory complaint-handling processes.”
‘Callous, cold-hearted’: Pope’s commissioner says George Pell has to go
CARDINAL George Pell has been condemned over his treatment of abuse victims by the man hand-picked by the Pope to protect children in the Catholic Church.
In an extraordinary attack aired on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes, Peter Saunders said the cardinal had acted with “callousness” and “cold-heartedness”.
Pope Francis’s specially appointed commissioner for the protection of children added:“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.”
A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell has since responded to the report.
“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,” the statement reads.
“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 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.”
In the past fortnight, the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse heard damning evidence in Ballarat against Father Gerald Ridsdale, Australia’s worst paedophile priest. Witnesses accused Pell of ignoring warnings about Ridsdale, and one claims Pell tried to silence him with a bribe, an allegation he has previously denied.
The Commission also heard that Pell attended a meeting where it was decided that Ridsdale needed to be moved to another parish, and did not question the move.
Ridsdale was moved nine times within Victoria.
The Catholic Church has a history of moving paedophile priests instead of taking action against them.
“I’ve been to Australia and I’ve heard from people who have suffered directly,” said Saunders, who is himself a victim of paedophile priests.
“I think he is somebody who, understandably, victim survivors will have a huge, huge issue with.”
Saunders, who joined the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors six months ago, said Pell had “a moral responsibility” to face the Royal Commission, “to allay the fears that many victims and survivors feel, which is that he is avoiding facing some very, very difficult truths, which is his past behaviour.”
Pell has said he has not been asked to meet the Royal Commission following the latest claims and that he fully supports its work. As head of Vatican finances, he is thought to be the second-most powerful man in the Catholic Church.
A spokesperson for Pell said he had not seen the material prior to 60 Minutes’ broadcast, and that he had not met nor been approached by Mr Saunders.
David Ridsdale told the Royal Commission 13 years ago that when he turned to Pell after being abused by his uncle, Father Gerald Ridsdale, Pell said: “I want to know what it would take to keep you quiet.”
The cardinal then still chose to publicly support Ridsdale by accompanying him to court when he was charged with abusing a number of other boys, which he now concedes might have been “offensive.”
Saunders said: “To me, it’s absolutely outrageous, and it demonstrates once again the callousness, the cold-heartedness and the contempt that George Pell appears to display for this whole issue and particularly, for the victims of these dreadful crimes.”
In 2002, Anthony and Chrissie Foster said they had approached Pell, then-Archbishop of Melbourne, about the repeated sexual abuse of their daughters’ Emma and Katie by their school priest. Emma later took her own life.
The couple showed Pell a photo of Emma on her confirmation day and one after she had self-harmed, and he reportedly said: “She’s changed, hasn’t she?”
Pell denied having seen the photo in 2002, but in 2013 he said he probably had, and simply hadn’t had “a chance for a considered response”.
“Those photographs, they are not something that you would forget,” said Saunders, calling Pell a “massive thorn in the side” of the Pope.
“He is making a mockery of the Papal Commission, of the Pope himself, but most of all, of the victims and the survivors.
“Anybody who is a serious obstacle to the work of the Commission and to the work of the Pope in trying to clean up the Church’s act over this matter, I think they need to be taken aside very, very quickly and removed from any kind of position of influence.
“Our direction cannot include cover-ups and allowing children to be abused”.
In a statement provided before the program aired, a spokesperson for Cardinal Pell said: “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.
“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.”