Cardinal George Pell is a world leader in addressing child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and doesn’t deserve to have his character attacked, the Archbishop of Melbourne says.
Denis Hart has offered a passionate defence of his colleague and friend Cardinal Pell, who will return from the Vatican later this year to appear before the second round of Ballarat hearings of the abuse royal commission.
Archbishop Hart says claims Cardinal Pell helped cover up pedophile activity in Australia couldn’t be further from the truth.
He’s rejected claims by a member of Pope Francis’s child protection commission, British abuse survivor Peter Saunders, who has called on the pope to sack Cardinal Pell as the Vatican’s financial chief.
“When he became Archbishop, he introduced the first system for dealing with child sex abuse, trying to bring relief to victims, trying to bring care and also some financial compensation,” Archbishop Hart told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“He was a world leader in this regard.”
Archbishop Hart said Mr Saunders is just one member of a 17-member panel tasked with addressing child protection issues within the church.
“He does not have a brief, he’s not the commissioner. He’s a member of a committee which is responsible for addressing broad-based issues,” he said.
“He’s making statements about a person who he doesn’t know, possibly being fed by the words and phrases that others are using. I think it’s a personal view and I think it needs to be seen as such.”
Cardinal Pell is seeking legal advice following Mr Saunders’ public attack earlier this week.
But Mr Saunders, who accused Cardinal Pell of an “almost sociopathic” lack of care towards victims, says he won’t be silenced.
Mr Saunders has also expressed concern that Cardinal Pell, in his role as the Vatican’s financial chief, is in charge of the resources of the panel.
“The commission will largely be dictated, to some extent, by the resources that are made available to it … and my understanding is that there is some financial pressure already in this particular area and I’m pretty appalled at that.”
Cardinal Pell has denied being part of any cover up of abuse, and says he’s always been willing to front the royal commission.