Vatican: Fat chance of reforms with Cardinal Pell’s inclusion within Pope Francis's advisory group Print E-mail

The inclusion of Cardinal George Pell within Pope Francis’s permanent advisory group to help him run the Catholic Church and study a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy is a blunder of epic proportions;  on one particular account [and there are others] when the words of Pell, as too those of Melbourne Archbishop Hart, are manifestly misleading to all who hear them, clearly demonstrating that rather being part of the solution, Pell has played a major role in the Church’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of children and young adults by criminal priests

 Sunday April 14 2013

Pell appointed to Pope advisory group

Archbishop of Sydney George Pell. (AP)

Archbishop of Sydney George Pell has been appointed by Pope Francis to a permanent advisory group to help him run the Catholic Church and study a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.

Cardinal Pell is one of eight cardinals and one monsignor - the others are from Europe, Africa, North and South America, and Asia - who have been appointed to the group.

The panel is a clear indication that Francis wants to reflect the universal nature of the church in its governance and core decision-making, particularly given the church is growing and counts most of the world's Catholics in the southern hemisphere.

In the run-up to the conclave that elected Francis pope one month ago, a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy was a constant drumbeat, as were calls to make the Vatican itself more responsive to the needs of bishops around the world.

Including representatives from each continent in a permanent advisory panel to the pope would seem to go a long way toward answering those calls.

In its bombshell announcement on Saturday, the Vatican said that Francis got the idea to form the advisory body from the pre-conclave meetings.

"He has formed a group of cardinals to advise him in the governing of the universal church and to study a revision of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia," the statement said.

Pope John Paul II issued Pastor Bonus in 1988, and it functions effectively as the blueprint for the administration of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, meting out the work and jurisdictions of the congregations, pontifical councils and other offices that make up the governance of the Catholic Church, known as the Roman Curia.

Pastor Bonus itself was a revision of the 1967 document that marked the last major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy undertaken by Pope Paul VI.

A reform of the Vatican bureaucracy has been demanded for decades, given both John Paul and Benedict XVI essentially neglected in-house administration of the Holy See in favour of other priorities.

But the calls for change grew deafening last year after the leaks of papal documents exposed petty turf battles within the Vatican bureaucracy, allegations of corruption in the running of the Vatican city state and even a purported plot by senior Vatican officials to out a prominent Catholic as gay.

Francis' advisory group will meet in its inaugural session October 1-3, the Vatican said in a statement.

Cardinal Pell, aged 71, is the eighth Archbishop of Sydney, serving since 2001.

The non-Vatican officials, apart from Cardinal Pell, include cardinals Francisco Javier Errzuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston; and Oscar Andrs Rodrguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, will be secretary.


 Thursday June 6, 2013

Why these two men are still part of the problem

By Chrissie Foster

High-ranking clerics must answer for the smokescreen they created in protecting criminal priests.

Cardinal George Pell. (Joe Armao)

On the last two Mondays in May, we heard the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, and Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, give testimony to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse in religious organisations. They spoke on the sexual abuse of hundreds of "innocent people" – known to the rest of us as children – committed by priests and brothers in Victoria.

Discussion, debate and analysis have followed their evidence. I must add to this argument. I bear personal witness to experiences with both Archbishop Hart and Cardinal Pell which contradict their limited vision of events. Space limits the attack I would like to launch, so I will refer to just two instances, one relating to the cardinal and one the archbishop.

I first locked horns with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in 1996, and the protection of children has meant I have not stopped challenging them since. In March 1996 I discovered that my eldest daughter Emma had been sexually assaulted by our parish priest, Father Kevin O'Donnell, who at that time was in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting children from 1946 to 1977. Emma's disclosures and, later, those of our second daughter, Katie, took his offending to his retirement in 1992 – amounting to 50 years of raping, sodomising and sexually assaulting, most likely, hundreds of children.

Archbishop Denis Hart. (Joe Armao)

In Cardinal Pell's written submission to the parliamentary inquiry, he stated: "Although he [Father O'Donnell] brought shame upon the priesthood and the church, he was buried with other priests in Melbourne. Had he been laicised before he died, this would not have occurred." Seemingly the cardinal is lamenting that a career child rapist was not laicised before he died so, sadly, a criminal priest is "buried with other priests". This sounds a noble and reasonable lament for a pious and forthright cardinal.

Yet on February 18, 1997, I and 44 other distressed parents met with then Archbishop George Pell in Oakleigh. At this meeting we asked the archbishop that the then living and imprisoned Father O'Donnell be laicised. Pell smiled condescendingly and said "we can't do that" – just as the canon lawyer had said and done to our same request only months earlier.

This time we were talking to the boss, so we persisted. We told Archbishop Pell that his own canon law said it was possible. The archbishop replied that canon law was hard to understand, hard to interpret. We produced a copy of the 1152-page book of canon law and read aloud law number 1395.2 – it clearly stated a priest could be laicised for the sexual abuse of a minor. Taken aback, with the evidence of the book and its clear language, the archbishop back-pedalled, saying he would have to get back to us about it. He never did. Later in the meeting, we again asked that O'Donnell be laicised; again it was denied.

So despite his 2013 public show of disappointment that Father O'Donnell was not laicised before he died, it was in fact George Pell, as Archbishop of Melbourne who, 16 years earlier, refused to laicise O'Donnell. Pell as archbishop had from July 1996 until O'Donnell's death in March 1997 to laicise the imprisoned criminal "before he died". But even when asked to laicise O'Donnell he refused, claiming ignorance of laicisation protocols when in fact he had served, for nine years at that time, on the body that oversaw the laicisation of priests in Rome – the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. We did not discover this fact until 12 years later, in 2009.

While Archbishop Pell denied our request in 1997, he now appears to lament the fact that Father O'Donnell was not laicised before he died – as though he had nothing to do with it. Cardinal Pell should face the truth: that in 1997 he was happy for O'Donnell to be "buried with other priests in Melbourne"; he ensured it happened. Yet Cardinal Pell now presents to Australia a misleading impression of regret that O'Donnell is buried with other priests, when he played a major role in bringing that reality about. Cardinal Pell's failure to act meant one of Australia's worst child rapists kept his privileged title of Father and was buried honourably with other priests.

In Archbishop Hart's oral evidence to the parliamentary inquiry, he stated that when victims decided not to accept the church offer of compensation, it had "walked with them" through the court system to "more generous payouts". Later, he stated that "no victim had made it to court". So how could the church have possibly walked with victims through the court system when it has never happened? You can't have it both ways.

In addition to this, we personally sued Archbishop Hart in our attempt to reach court, him being the current leader of the Melbourne Archdiocese. Hart never contacted us. He did however send us a message. Instead of acting out his words of apparent compassion in "walking with victims", he set his lawyers on us for years, engaging, directing and paying them to strenuously defend the church to the point of claiming Father O'Donnell's innocence – even after their independent commissioner, Peter O'Callaghan, had found sexual abuse had taken place with both Emma and Katie. Astoundingly, their attack negated Archbishop Pell's earlier written apology to Emma.

Also Archbishop Hart, if you and the church hierarchy are happy to "walk with victims" to achieve "higher payouts" as you say, why not simply remove the cap you hold in place to control and minimise payouts? Your heart, like that of others in the hierarchy, is bent on preserving church wealth instead of restoring broken lives. None of your actions, in any way, resemble your claim of "walking with victims". It is time for honesty, Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Hart, not smokescreen words for personal cover-ups. Your words are manifestly misleading to all who hear them, and therefore you remain part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Chrissie Foster
is the co-author of Hell on the Way to Heaven.

 Melbourne ~ Saturday June 1, 2013

Minimising crimes: how the church is playing with words

By Chris Goddard

Australian Cardinal George Pell appearing at the child sex abuse inquiry. (Joe Armao)

There are 80 lights in the five chandeliers in the Committee Room of the Parliament of Victoria. The windows, ornate mirrors and high ceiling give a sense of light and space. The darkness created by the rape of children, however, is inescapable.

This is where the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations has been sitting. The committee and its members have grown in stature. They have attempted to illuminate the shadowy world of criminal priests and their accomplices, and to give hope to surviving victims.

It was in this room that Cardinal George Pell spent all last Monday afternoon, for the first time subject to the glare of accountability. Pell was greeted by the committee chairwoman, Georgie Crozier: ''I welcome your eminence.'' A survivor muttered: ''I have waited 30 years for this.'' Pell introduced his support team, the business manager, lawyer, secretary and media adviser: ''All of them married people with children'', he adds, as if this was central to their job descriptions.

Crozier stressed at the very start that ''the evidence is quite clear, the criminal sexual abuse of children occurred under the watch of the Catholic Church and it was covered up … these facts are not in dispute''.

The battle over words such as ''power'' and their meanings, over actions and inaction and their consequences, started immediately. Pell acknowledged that he is one of the better known public faces of the Catholic Church in Australia, but stressed that he had ''very, very limited'' powers. Pell attempted to underline the limitations of his authority: ''I am not the Catholic Prime Minister of Australia'', he insisted, although no one had suggested he was. The cardinal explained that, in spite of all his titles, the Catholic Church is ''an interesting example of a flat organisation''. The chairwoman disagreed, stating that ''many witnesses'' had described the church as ''a structure of convenience''.

It was nearly 70 years ago that another George, Orwell, wrote his essay ''Politics and the English Language''. He described how political language ''is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable''. The proceedings of the inquiry clearly demonstrated that words can be used to obscure the truth, confuse the vulnerable, protect criminals. In Orwell's words, make child rape respectable.

There were many words and phrases considered closely throughout the inquiry. The title of the Catholic Church's ''Independent Commissioner'' was subjected to particular scrutiny. Peter O'Callaghan, the incumbent, claimed that being paid by the church, the organisation responsible for the offenders, did not ''destroy'' his independence. To suggest that it does, he said, was ''a grave allegation''.

The independence of O'Callaghan was earlier called into question by Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton. He stated that O'Callaghan had ''alerted alleged offenders to police investigations and discouraged victims from reporting to police''. O'Callaghan, he stated, had also advised one victim that if the abuse was reported to the police, it ''would be unlikely to be held by a court as criminal conduct''.

O'Callaghan described himself as ''surprised'' by Ashton's ''volley of criticisms''. But he made an admission: ''I still have not worked out how paedophiles get gratification from fiddling with prepubescent children.''

Carelessness over the words used to describe crimes contrasts starkly with the considered and precise language used when describing the church. Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart gave the church a gender and admitted that she was ''too keen to look after herself and her good name''.

There is a pattern of repeat offending in those who would excuse the church. The minimisation of crimes is evident among even self-confessed ''lapsed'' Catholics. In an essay entitled ''Father Scapegoat'', in Quadrant magazine earlier this year, the poet and songwriter Joe Dolce wrote that he was raised a Catholic but was ''never touched up by any of the priests''. Again, the contrast is extraordinary. Dolce described children being ''touched up'' by Catholic priests but ''sexually abused'' by Protestants, teachers and family members. ''Someone once remarked,'' Dolce continued, ''that if the age of consent for boys was lowered to 16, most of the charges against Catholic priests would vanish.'' He clearly had not read the Victoria Police evidence.

There are other Orwellian themes. In 1984, Orwell wrote that ''who controls the past … controls the future''. Pell and his colleagues' versions of the past are attempts to protect their futures.

Archbishop Hart certainly demonstrated extraordinary attempts to control the past. He admitted that sex-offender priests were moved from parish to parish but said that his predecessor, Frank Little, dealt with the complaints secretly and kept no records. The Archbishop's willingness to blame Little contrasted strongly with his description of him just five years earlier at his funeral mass. Then, Hart lauded Little as a ''dedicated priest'' who was ''a lover of humanity''. There were, however, ''serious challenges'' including IVF, education, the ''casino culture'' and abortion. All challenges from outside the church, while a terrible evil dwelt within.

Orwell described how a ''mass of … words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details''. In spite of the efforts of expensive lawyers and public relations consultants, there were occasional glimpses of the damning truth.

Pell was forced to admit that the date had been changed on a document making child rapist Desmond Gannon pastor emeritus. Pell also admitted that another offender was paid by the church even when he fled to Britain to avoid arrest, and that files had been destroyed in Ballarat by Bishop Mulkearns.

It was Denis Hart who demonstrated that it was not always possible to adhere to the PR consultants' lines. When asked why the church had been so slow to take action against serial offender Desmond Gannon (it took about 18 years), Hart replied: ''Better late than never.'' The gasps of shock from the public gallery were clearly audible.

The carefully prepared positions on what words to use, the dead people to blame, the claims that no one talked about the problem, and all the other shifty shades of grey were suddenly, starkly illuminated by that throwaway line: better late than never. For so many victims of priests it is already too late, it is already never: childhoods destroyed, families torn asunder, lives lost.

Chris Goddard is director of Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia, at Monash University.

 Wednesday May 29 2013

It seemed to make things worse: Pell sorry over meeting

By Barney Zwartz/Religion editor, The Age

Chrissie and Anthony Foster outside the inquiry. (Justin McManus)

Cardinal George Pell has apologised for a meeting with abuse victims at which the father later said the then Melbourne Catholic Archbishop showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy”.

Calling that 1997 meeting at Oakleigh one of the most difficult he has ever been involved with, Cardinal Pell said: “My only intention was to listen to their story and to try to help. It is clear that I did not succeed in this.

“No matter what I said or did, it seemed to make things worse. I am sorry for whatever I did to upset them at this meeting. It was always my intention (and always has been) to treat Mr and Mrs Foster and their daughters with the utmost respect and compassion.”

Anthony and Chrissie Foster with a family portrait. (Craig Sillitoe)

The cardinal's apology is part of his submission to the Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled sexual abuse, submitted on Friday night and posted on the inquiry's website on Wednesday morning. On Monday he was the inquiry's last witness.

“I am very sorry … for the suffering of the Foster family. I am also sorry that I have been unable to persuade Mr and Mrs Foster of my good intentions,” he said.

Anthony and Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were repeatedly raped over years by Oakleigh priest Kevin O'Donnell, said they found Cardinal Pell's submission “infuriating”. “It was his harshness, heartlessness and arrogance that turned us into what we are today (anti-abuse campaigners)”, Mrs Foster said.

Cardinal George Pell. (Jeffrey Chan)

“He says he wanted to help us. What did he take into that meeting to help us? If he'd said 'it's terrible, we try to keep paedophiles out, we're sorry', that would have been it, but he was arrogant and bombastic.”

Mr Foster said: “It sounds fair enough on paper, like many of his statements, but where are the actions that show he's sorry? The process he set up then went on to try to crush us.”

In his submission to the inquiry, Cardinal Pell covers a number of controversial areas about which witnesses have given evidence, including alleged failures over paedophile priests Gerald Ridsdale and Peter Searson and defending the delays in defrocking those convicted.

He says he did not know Ridsdale was a paedophile until the early 1990s, and realises that it was a mistake to accompany him to court in 1993. “I am sorry for the offence it caused.”

He denies he offered Ridsdale's nephew David hush-money, saying it would have made no sense as the police were already investigating. “I do not understand why David made the claims he did about our conversation in 1993. It is an ongoing source of sadness and mystery to me.”

Cardinal Pell remembers meeting two delegations of teachers from Holy Family Doveton who complained about serial abuser Peter Searson but says there was insufficient evidence to act.

The submission says “things are very different in the Catholic community today from the 1960s and 1970s. The church has upheld 224 complaints of sexual abuse from the 1970s, 82 from the 1980s, 12 from the 1990s and one from the decade from 2000.

It says: “Catholic authorities worked from the principle that the needs of victims must be our first consideration … Our starting point is one of contrition and respect.”

In evidence on Monday, Cardinal Pell said the reply to a letter from a victim's mother on May 9, more than three years after she wrote, was not the first time the church had responded. He said he had a recollection of a phone call by Sydney communications director Katrina Lee.

However, the mother, Clare Linane, whose son and son-in-law were both abused in Ballarat by Brother Edward Dowlan, said she was definitely not contacted in any form after sending her letter in April 2010.

 Monday May 27, 2013

Pell camp 'offensive' in letter reply

By Barney Zwartz/ Religion editor, The Age

Cardinal George Pell's spokeswoman has replied to a victim's mother three years after she wrote and just before he gives evidence on Monday at the Victorian inquiry into how churches handled sex abuse.

The victims said the timing was insulting and the charm offensive merely offensive after Sydney archdiocese communications director Katrina Lee told the mother that the cardinal believed that helping victims and treating them with compassion and respect must be the church's first priority.

Ms Lee told Ballarat mother Clare Linane that she was looking at previous correspondence in light of the Victorian inquiry, and offered to help Mrs Linane's son report the abuse to police if he had not done so.

The son, Ballarat survivor and victims' advocate Peter Blenkiron, asked: ''Do they think we are idiots? Do they think the community are stupid?''

Mrs Linane said she felt cynical about the letter, and that Cardinal Pell's demeanour did not match his words. ''He doesn't act like a man of God,'' she said.

She wrote to Ms Lee after a Herald Sun article in April 2010 about allegations that the church paid hush money to shield top clerics. In the article, Ms Lee refused to answer questions ''because people involved were unavailable'', and accused the paper of running an inquisition.

Mrs Linane told Ms Lee that Mr Blenkiron had twice travelled to Melbourne for scheduled County Court hearings, only to have the church cancel, leaving the family with bills of thousands of dollars for barristers. ''Sometimes I wonder if those in charge of these 'cancellations' think that if they drag things out long enough another suicide will occur and they will be off the hook,'' she said.

When Ms Lee replied three years later, on May 9, she praised the cardinal with whom she had worked for years. ''He has said many times that helping victims and ensuring they are heard, believed and treated with compassion and respect must be the church's first priority.''

Mrs Linane replied to Ms Lee, saying she simply could not believe her description of the cardinal.

Ms Lee told Fairfax Media: ''This was a personal letter sent of my own accord, not on behalf of anyone else, and responding to a very concerned and loving mother and grandmother who has obviously suffered herself.''

She did not say whether she or the cardinal had written to anyone else.

Focus - Pages 20-21

Thursday March 7, 2013

Pell on list of panned papal candidates

Cardinal George Pell. (Jeffrey Chan)

CHICAGO: Clergy sex abuse victims have released a "dirty dozen" list of potential papal candidates - including Australia's George Pell - and are urging the Catholic Church to "get serious" about protecting children, helping victims and exposing corruption.

"We want to urge Catholic prelates to stop pretending that the worst is over regarding the clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis," said David Clohessy, director of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

"Tragically, the worst is almost certainly ahead."

The organisation cited a dozen cardinals from the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Italy, Australia, Czech Republic, Canada, Argentina and Ghana accused of protecting paedophile priests and making offensive public statements.

They are all considered to be contenders to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who was criticised for his handling of the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the church in the United States and Europe.

SNAP also opposes electing any member of the Roman Curia, the administrative branch of the Holy See.

"We feel no current Vatican 'insider' has the will to truly 'clean house' in the Vatican and elsewhere,"' Mr Clohessy said in a statement.

"Promoting a Curia member would discourage victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and advocates from reporting wrongdoing."

The blacklist included: Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana; Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone of Italy; Cardinal Dominik Duka of Czech Republic; Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington; Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston; Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina; Cardinal George Pell of Australia; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada.


 Brisbane ~ Friday November 9, 2012

Pell urged to quit over abuse cover-up claims

By Josephine Tovey

Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell has been told to resign.

A NSW government MP has called on Cardinal George Pell to resign over his "failure" to properly respond to child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and the institution's alleged cover-up of numerous crimes.

The Nationals MP for Dubbo, Troy Grant, a former police officer who led the watershed paedophilia investigation of priest Vincent Ryan, said it was time for Cardinal Pell, as Archbishop of Sydney, to "fall on his sword" because the church had never managed to put the interests of victims before its clergymen.

Mr Grant's call comes after a senior police officer, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, wrote an impassioned letter to the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, urging him to set up a royal commission into the matter.

Mr Grant said the leadership of the church had shown an inability to deal with the issue.

"If Pell hasn't got the capacity or courage to tackle this front-on then he should step aside and let somebody in there that does," Mr Grant told Fairfax Media on Friday.

"If he's not prepared to do that he should get out of the road and let someone who is for the betterment of the church take his place."

Mr O'Farrell has repeatedly resisted calls for a royal commission in NSW, arguing it threatened to jeopardise police investigations.

Mr Grant said the issue would be better dealt with by a national royal commission, as it was not confined to a single state.

"None of the states own this issue, [the church] shifts priests across the country, across the world . . . I think it would be less successful – a state-led inquiry – than a national one, " he said.

"If we're going to do this we need to do it properly, and the individual resources that a state has are much less than a national effort could be."

Mr Grant said the Catholic church was his family's church, which made the issue a personal one for him.

"This is a blight on the faith and an institution that does so much good," he said.

"We must put the victims' welfare and interests first, and that's what the church has never done."

In his letter to the Premier, which was also published in The Newcastle Herald, Inspector Fox said police were continually frustrated by the "sinister" behaviour of the church.

"I can testify from my own experience that the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church," he wrote.

"Convicted priest Vincent Ryan was sent to Victoria when the church learnt of his abuse, returning the following year after things cooled down to pick up where he left off.

"Many priests don't want a royal commission nor does the hierarchy of the church, but God knows we need one."

A response is being sought from Cardinal Pell.
 Wednesday November 14 2012

What George doesn't understand

The Religious Write: By Barney Zwartz/ Religion editor of The Age

Cardinal George Pell faces the media at a press conference on Tuesday. (Anthony Johnson)

George Pell has been a beacon for criticism over the years and even more so this week. Much of it is richly deserved. But some of it is, frankly, silly and shows a culpable ignorance (at least, if you want to be a commentator) of the Catholic Church.

George Pell is Australia's only active cardinal, but he is not Australia's chief Catholic. No one is. If there were such a position it would belong to the cardinal's close friend and colleague, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, as the chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Each bishop of Australia's 30-odd Catholic dioceses is theoretically autonomous, answerable to the Pope, not Pell. So to say he should have done this in Newcastle or that in Ballarat is to miss the point: he has no authority there; he is the Archbishop of Sydney.

But that doesn't let him off the hook when it comes to talking about the Catholic Church in Australia. As he said in Tuesday's press conference in Sydney, he has considerable moral influence, which he uses to comfort some and discomfort others.

Pell and Hart really seem not to understand how they are perceived because they do not see themselves as part of the problem - as many in the pews and wider society do. In their eyes they are the solvers, the Hercules who cleaned out the Augean stables of entrenched clerical sexual abuse and cover-up. How else could a press conference ostensibly welcoming a royal commission spend so much time castigating others and justifying the church when the only proper response was a mega-mea culpa?

Pell was the architect of the Melbourne Response, with the help of Hart (then his Vicar-General) in 1996, and both were part of introducing Towards Healing, the abuse protocol that applies everywhere but Melbourne.
These were genuine attempts to improve the processes involved in handling complaints of clerical sexual abuse and the treatment of victims, which should be readily acknowledged. What should also be acknowledged, and which Pell and Hart find difficult to do, is that these protocols also have manifest inadequacies – not least that the church should be independently investigating crimes at all, let alone under canon law rather than Australian law.

Many inside and outside the church are calling on Pell to resign as Archbishop of Sydney. This is highly unrealistic. Pell is a combative man who relishes a fight and cannot see that he has done anything to require such drastic penitence. I think he is wrong about many things, not least his belief that the revulsion is media-driven and not shared by the public, and that the media exaggerates the problem. As I have said before, without the media nothing would have emerged, and nothing would have changed. But I understand why Pell cannot step down.

Pell is homo vaticanus, a Vatican man, almost before he is homo sapiens. Retired Sydney bishop Geoffrey Robinson, who headed the Australian church's fight against clerical sexual abuse for a decade before resigning, disillusioned, in 2004, is surely right to say the real reforms need to happen in Rome. It is the authority and power structures of the church, its deep clericalism and patriarchalism, that underpin the systems that let Catholic clergy abuse at six times the rate of all other Christian clergy put together.

Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister, put it very powerfully last year after the Cloyne Report highlighted interference from the Vatican which he characterised as an attempt to frustrate the inquiry – three years, not decades, earlier. ''In doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism ... the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation','' Kenny said.

Another aspect of Catholic ecclesial life that has been widely criticised, including by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell this week, is the sanctity of the confessional, the idea that what is revealed to a priest under the sacred rite of confession is utterly secret and cannot be revealed to anyone, even the police if it involves a crime.

Cardinal Pell repeated the doctrine emphatically on Tuesday, in a tone that said ''this is not remotely open for discussion''. He said it twice: ''The seal of confession is inviolable.'' This is so important to Catholic priests than many have said they would rather go to jail rather than break the seal.

It is easy to understand the outrage at the thought that the confessional might stand above the secular law, but I don't think the state should tackle this, for at least two reasons. First, these are personal beliefs that go to the core of the priests' faith and self-understanding, and to drive a wedge between public and private conscience is seldom wise or effective. What is the point of making martyrs of such priests?

The second is pragmatic: I don't believe that the first inkling of paedophile predation often emerges in the confessional (unless the paedophile knows he is confessing to another paedophile). I think such behaviour emerges because the victim has finally found a voice, or perhaps because rumours are swirling around the church. With all the issues a royal commission must face, this is rather a red herring.

 Thursday November 15 2012

Pell an 'embarrassment', says retired bishop

By Nino Bucci

A retired bishop says Cardinal George Pell is an "embarrassment" to "a lot of good Catholic people" and should no longer be the voice of Australian bishops in the wake of his comments about child sex abuse within the church.

Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, blamed a smear campaign against the Catholic Church for public pressure that led to a royal commission into child sex abuse.

He said on Tuesday that the commission would help separate fact from fiction after a "persistent press campaign" and "general smears that we [the church] are covering up and moving people around".

But Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, from Sydney, said on ABC radio on Wednesday that bishops had to confront Cardinal Pell at a meeting to be held at the end of the month.

He said Cardinal Pell was not a team player; that he had always done his own thing, and that he was doing it "very badly indeed".

"The other bishops would have to speak for themselves [but] I have to say that on this subject, he's a great embarrassment to me and to a lot of good Catholic people," Bishop Robinson said.

"You know, [bishops] need to take pretty decisive action. I mean, there's going to be a royal commission of course, and the thing there is to cooperate with it fully, and they need to make that resolution of course.

"But the other issue I think is that of having some united voice, having someone who does speak for them and in doing that, I do think they're actually going to have to confront George Pell head-on.

"I don't think he'd like it. He wouldn't, and he'd probably speak anyway, but at least it could be made clear that he's speaking strictly for himself."

Bishop Robinson said that while the role of archbishop was decided outside Australia, bishops could choose another person to speak on their behalf.

The Archdiocese of Sydney media office has been contacted for comment.

Cardinal Pell also said at a press conference on Tuesday that he supported the Royal Commission as it focused on abuse linked to other groups and not solely the Catholic Church.

"We are not interested in denying the extent of misdoing in the Catholic Church. We object to it being exaggerated. We object to being described as the only cab on the rank," he said.
 Wednesday November 14 2012

Pell blames media 'smear'

By Barney Zwartz/ Religion Editor. The Age

A DEFIANT Cardinal George Pell has blamed a smear campaign against the Catholic Church for public pressure that led to a royal commission into child sex abuse.

The Archbishop of Sydney said a commission into the Catholic Church was not needed, but he welcomed the broader inquiry announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday night as ''an opportunity to clear the air, to separate fact from fiction''.

He attacked a ''persistent press campaign'' and ''general smears that we are covering up and moving people around'', and suggested that abuse by Catholic priests had been singled out and exaggerated.

He also suggested that cynicism about the church's handling of abuse was confined to the press, and the public understood that the church was serious about tackling the problem.

''We are not interested in denying the extent of misdoing in the Catholic Church. We object to it being exaggerated. We object to being described as the only cab on the rank,'' Cardinal Pell told a press conference in Sydney.

''We've been unable to convince public opinion for basically the last 20 years that, whatever our imperfections in individual cases, we've been serious about this … Because there is a persistent press campaign focused largely on us, that does not mean we are largely the principal culprits.''

At the weekend, Cardinal Pell - defying statistics presented to the Victorian state inquiry into how the churches handled child abuse that Catholic clergy committed six times as much abuse as the rest of the churches combined - insisted the church was no worse than any other.

He said it had been unfairly vilified because of anti-Catholic prejudice.

On Tuesday he again defended church practices and said the royal commission - whose terms of reference and head have yet to be announced - would judge whether the claims were true or a ''significant exaggeration''.

''We acknowledge, with shame, the extent of the problem, and I want to assure you that we have been serious in attempting to eradicate it,'' he said.

Cardinal Pell, who launched the Melbourne Response abuse protocol used only in that archdiocese when he was archbishop in 1996, described how then premier Jeff Kennett had called him to his office and said ''clean it up!''

Retired bishop Geoffrey Robinson, the principal architect of the Towards Healing protocol used in every other diocese, had some sympathy for Cardinal Pell's position, saying he would rather have a royal commission conducted by a judge than the media, as was happening now.

But Bishop Robinson, 75 - who was abused as a child and headed the Australian church's efforts to tackle clerical sexual abuse for a decade, until he retired in 2004 because he was so disillusioned - had a different tack on the solution.

He said the abuse crisis was doing massive damage to the church but the changes needed were in Rome. ''Until things improve by 10,000 per cent over there, everything done here will be second best. But I'd prefer all the dirt to come out now rather than dribble out over the next 20 years,'' he said.

Cardinal Pell suggested media coverage of abuse, which rehashed the same stories, might open old wounds among abuse victims. ''I wonder to what extent the victims are helped by this ongoing furore in the press,'' he said.

Asked whether priests who were told about abuse in the confessional should report it, he said: ''The seal of confession is inviolable.'' But if the priest suspected that he would be told of

such events, he should refuse to hear the confession. ''That would be my advice, and I would never hear the confession of a priest who is suspected of such a thing.''

Mr Kennett said he remembered meeting Cardinal Pell as the new archbishop of Melbourne. ''I said, 'You are new to the job, your challenge is to clean up these allegations as quickly and best you can for the sake of the victims and in defence of the very good work the church does.'''

Asked if he had told the archbishop that ''if you don't fix it I will'', he said he could not remember but it sounded like his language. ''I charged him, though I had no authority to do so, to clean it up.''

Mr Kennett said the abuse crisis ''broke the spirit'' of Cardinal Pell's predecessor in Melbourne, Archbishop Frank Little. ''I don't think he could bring himself to believe that in his flock people had committed these deeds.''

Mr Kennett said the royal commission would take years and might cost hundreds of millions of dollars, ''but so be it. It has to be done.''

He suggested witnesses might need financial help.

Poll: Is Cardinal George Pell in denial over sex abuse by clergy?
Yes 92%

No 8%

Total votes: 17372.

Poll closed 14 Nov, 2012

 Melbourne ~ Saturday November 17 2012

So much heartbreak, so much pain, it's about time

By  Chrissie Foster

Happy bedtime: Chrissie Foster with Aimee, Emma and Katie before their world was shattered.

I COULD never stand to live in a world without justice and truth: at last there will be a platform for both. Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement of a royal commission on child sexual abuse has brought to an end the cries from victims and victim supporters. Of course, there have been many tears this week. More will be shed. But the royal commission is a cause for celebration.

For my family, the struggle to achieve this breakthrough began 16 years ago, on March 26, 1996. This was the day my daughter Emma, after almost a year of starving her 13-year-old body to an emaciated 41 kilograms, numerous self-harming horrors and attempts to take her own life, disclosed that our parish priest had sexually assaulted her. Not once, but on many occasions over her primary school years.

Fifteen months later more horror and heartbreak surfaced through a half-finished suicide note from our second daughter, Katie. She had hidden the note in a shoebox. It was written in her very neatest handwriting. Katie had been another victim of our parish priest.

There was no cure for my much-loved daughters. The pain never leaves. After years of subsequent torment, Emma took her own life at the age of 26. Katie, while drunk after binge drinking, was hit by a car in 1999 (she was 15) and still receives 24-hour care as a result of her injuriesAdvertisement

There are many of these stories. Ours is not rare. The Prime Minister's announcement was a godsend, proof that our many voices have been heard and believed, at long last. It feels like justice. The burning truth has ignited a light and we must shine it on the Catholic Church because of its cover-up.

The Catholic hierarchy fiercely lobbied against a royal commission. But a royal commission had to be called. The claim from the hierarchy and biased commentators - that the Catholic Church is no different to other organisations in relation to child sex crimes and cover-ups - is nonsense. On the first day of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry I sat and listened to the evidence of Victoria Police and three professors.

All stated they would speak only about the Catholic Church. They based their submissions on records and research. Facts. Catholic Church sex offenders committed six times more sexual assaults on children than all the other religions combined. At least one in 20 Melbourne priests was a child sex offender, but the real figure was probably one in 15. There was a systemic obstruction of police inquiries over five decades.

Officers in two police forces - Victoria and New South Wales - have made allegations of extensive church interference with investigations. The royal commission should look closely at this. It should examine the influence of the religious leaders on police and governments.

Why did state governments allow the church's flawed and destructive Melbourne Response and Towards Healing schemes to exist unchallenged for more than 15 years? At his media conference on Tuesday, Cardinal George Pell, ignoring the Victorian inquiry's expert evidence, chose to blame the ''press'' for a ''smear'' campaign against the Catholic Church. But the media is not the problem. Along with brave victims willing to go to police despite their trauma, the ''press'' has helped find a solution. If journalists had not written and broadcast stories of crimes and cover-ups, the likes of Father Gerald Ridsdale and countless other convicted criminal priests would still be celebrating Mass in Australia's Catholic parishes.

One thing is certain: the priesthood never lifted a finger to protect children from ongoing sexual assaults and rapes. Rather, the church paid for the paedophiles' legal defences. Not one priest or brother did it help jail.

Cardinal Pell said the confessional seal was ''inviolable''. I say the lives and bodies of our children are inviolable. Why should a foreign state law - the Vatican's Canon Law - override our Australian laws in protecting our children?

To understand why the confessional seal must be broken to protect children, we need only look at evidence given to a Queensland court in 2004. Father Michael McArdle, after pleading guilty to and being convicted of child sexual assault offences, swore an affidavit. In it he stated he had confessed to sexually assaulting children 1500 times to 30 different priests over a 25-year period.

Every one of those ''good'' priests, as if of one mind and voice, said to the criminal: ''Go home and pray.'' Is that what they are taught to say to each other when told of such crimes? Not one of the 30 priests urged him to get help or go to police. Nor did they report his crimes. The victims were abandoned to become hurting adults, their lives shattered. Distraught. Suicidal.

This is a rare insight into the secret world of paedophile priest confession. We must learn from it. The church system was designed to protect the priest and church from scandal. It was not established to consider the futures of Australia's children. We must not be distracted by the confusion and side issues thrown our way by the church hierarchy.

If mandatory reporting had been enforced at McArdle's first confession, then the next 25 years of pain and suffering for children would never have occurred. The guilt of which he was unburdened though confession only served him to reoffend within the same week. Cardinal Pell said he welcomed the royal commission. Why then did he deny its need just the previous day and the 20 years before? Recently he spoke of a ''cancer'' in the church. He is part of that cancer. Perhaps it is time for Cardinal Pell to step down and hand over to another cleric who possesses some empathy and compassion for children.

As for the royal commission, the government must strive to write the best terms of reference that encompass the essential need to expose child sexual assault and its cover-up in organisations.

Justice and accountability are needed for past crimes against children. Though it will not help my daughters, this will ensure change and safety for all future children. Only with this reality will victims become survivors.

Chrissie Foster is the co-author of Hell On The Way To Heaven.