November 5th 2016

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COVER STORY Hazelwood closure will push up power prices in Victoria

CANBERRA OBSERVED Out of the shadows of the backbench ...

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Obama Administration exacerbates Syria conflict

INDUSTRY AND ENVIRONMENT Wikileaks reveals U.S, funding behind anti-coal campaign

TAIWAN New president cautious, ambivalent towards Beijing

OPINION How to convert citizens into subjects and victims

FINANCE Untangling some knots of international tax

BRITISH AFFAIRS Brexit revisited: courts may come into play

LITERATURE The paradoxical idyll of Tolkien's Shire

HUMOUR Assembled and curated by Sebastian Gunlighter

MUSIC Unresolved melancholies

CINEMA Bittersweet Woody Allan: Cafe Society

BOOK REVIEW From von Ranke to van Gend

BOOK REVIEW More mystery than history

BOOK REVIEW An empire's collapse


NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal rebuts commission's 'Get Pell' campaign

U.S. AFFAIRS First Brexit, now Trump: it's the economy, stupid!

ANALYSIS What is possible to a Trump Whitehouse

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Cardinal rebuts commission's 'Get Pell' campaign

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, November 5, 2016

The credibility of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been tainted by a submission by counsel assisting that repeats unsustainable allegations of cover-up by Cardinal George Pell.

The Cardinal rebutted the allegations systematically, both in torrid cross-examination last March and more recently, through his legal counsel. His evidence has been supported by other submissions to the royal commission.

Cardinal George Pell

While the submission by counsel assisting has been widely reported in the media, the responses of Cardinal Pell and others who know the facts have been ignored, suggesting either that someone “leaked” the submission, or that there was collusion to destroy Cardinal Pell’s reputation.

This is a clear breach of the commission’s duty of procedural fairness to witnesses who have voluntarily given evidence.

The matters relate to instances of child sexual abuse in Ballarat where Cardinal Pell was a priest, and in Melbourne, at the time when Cardinal Pell was a bishop.

There is no doubt that both the local bishop and the Christian Brothers covered up allegations of child sexual abuse made over a lengthy period to protect the reputation of the Church and the schools. There was also a lack of awareness of the nature and extent of the problem, both in the Church and in the wider society.

While this explains the inaction of those in authority at the time, it does not excuse it. By covering up allegations of criminal activity, they were both accessories to it, and unwittingly contributed to the perpetuation of the problem over many years.

As the evidence also shows, the problem of covering up sexual misconduct occurred in many institutions, both religious and secular, from the 1960s to the 1990s. We know from other countries that it is a serious problem in all other societies.

Young priest

Cardinal Pell was a young priest in Ballarat at the time, was lecturing at the Catholic Teachers College and was later its director, and had little or nothing to do with any of the perpetrators or the victims.

The allegations against him relate to what he did to stop the perpetrators or assist the victims. Cardinal Pell has repeatedly said that, like most people in Ballarat, he knew almost nothing of the allegations.

He has also said that he regretted not doing more when whispers of misconduct came to his attention. He said that responsibility for the conduct of Christian Brothers’ schools was in the hands of the Christian Brothers, and when one young person advised him of misconduct involving one brother who was later convicted of numerous sexual offences, he contacted the school chaplain who assured him that the Brothers were dealing with the matter.

For a time when he was a priest in the Ballarat diocese, he was a member of the consultors to the then Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns, attending meetings convened by the Bishop to consider matters related to the administration of the diocese. Cardinal Pell was a member of this body because he was running the Catholic Teachers’ College in the diocese.

The Cardinal has repeatedly stated that at these meetings, Bishop Mulkearns said nothing about sexual abuse allegations against the clergy or Christian Brothers, even when the evidence clearly shows that he had been alerted to grave allegations by parents or, on a couple of occasions, the police.

Bishop Mulkearns, in evidence given shortly before his death, also said that he had never raised the matter at consultors’ meetings. Other priests who attended these meetings, including some senior priests who knew about some of the allegations, also confirmed that such matters were never discussed.

In spite of this, counsel assisting the commission has repeated claims made in cross-examination of Cardinal Pell last March, that he must have known of the allegations, because they were known to other priests and to the police.

The counsel assisting also believed claims by some victims that Cardinal Pell had ignored allegations of sexual abuse, when the evidence of Cardinal Pell and others showed conclusively that the alleged meetings with Cardinal Pell could not have taken place when or where they were said to have occurred.

In relation to Cardinal Pell’s time as an Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne, allegations were repeated that he had failed to deal with serious allegations of misconduct against a priest in Melbourne.

Cardinal Pell proved he had taken the complaints seriously, and had reported them to both the Catholic Education Office (CEO), which was responsible for the school in question, and the then Archbishop of Melbourne. However, nothing was done by either the CEO or the then Archbishop.

When he later became Archbishop of Melbourne, Cardinal Pell removed the priest, who had not faced criminal charges, from parish work and forbade him from having any contact with young people.

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