Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, is accused of abusing two boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s. Photograph: Jane Dempster/EPA
New allegations of child abuse are being levelled against Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s financial chief and the most senior figure in the Australian Catholic church.
Fairfax Media has reported claims contained in a new book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s cathedral after becoming archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.
The author Louise Milligan first flagged these claims on the ABC’s 7.30 Report in July last year. But according to Fairfax Milligan’s book, to be released on Monday, contains details of the accusations that have not been made public before.
After the 7.30 Report Pell accused the ABC of conducting a “scandalous smear campaign.”
Cardinal Pell’s office issued a statement on Saturday saying the cardinal had “not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria police of the status of their investigations, which have been underway since at least February 2016.”
“Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by Melbourne University Press (publisher of Milligan’s book) and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false,” the statement said.
“He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the royal commission.”
The boys, students at St Kevin’s College, sang in the cathedral choir and were allegedly abused by the archbishop in a room somewhere in the precincts of the cathedral. They left the choir and the school shortly afterwards.
Milligan claims one of the choirboys died of a drug overdose in 2014. His mother was subsequently told by the second boy that they had been abused by Pell when they were teenagers at the cathedral.
Milligan writes that both spoke to the Sano taskforce established to investigate allegations that emerged during a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria and the later royal commission into child abuse.
Pell has now been accused of abusing boys at three stages of his career: as a seminarian, a priest and as archbishop of Melbourne.
He has denied all these allegations on a number of occasions. No charges have ever been laid against him in relation to them. The cardinal, prefect of the secretariat for the economy at the Vatican, has stated that he willingly co-operated with the detectives of the Victoria police when they interviewed him in Rome in October last year.
Sano has also investigated allegations that as a young priest Pell abused boys in the swimming pool of his hometown Ballarat. Pell also denies these allegations.
Milligan writes that Pell and his defenders have been able to “bat off or gloss over” the swimming pool allegations by casting them as “horseplay or a bit of rough and tumble … The story of [the choirboys] has no such ambiguity. If these allegations are true, they point to utter, sinful hypocrisy.”
Citing ill health, Pell declined to return to Australia to give evidence to the royal commission in person last year and instead gave evidence by videolink from Rome. In February this year the Australian senate called on the cardinal to return home “to assist the Victorian police and office of public prosecutions with their investigation into these matters.”
Pell dismissed the parliamentary resolution as “an interference on the part of the Senate in the due process of the Victoria Police investigation.”
According to reports, the police have now twice sent briefs of evidence concerning Pell to the Victorian office of public prosecutions.
The Guardian is not claiming Cardinal Pell is guilty of any allegations of sex abuse, only that they have been investigated by police.
Operation Sano continues.
The Guardian contacted the Vatican, Pell’s office in Rome and his office in Australia for comment.
Cardinal George Pell allegedly sexually abused cathedral choirboys, book claims
13 May 2017
Explosive claims of child sex abuse have been levelled against Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic official, Cardinal George Pell.
A soon-to-be-released book about Cardinal Pell contains detailed claims that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the late 1990s.
The alleged abuse is said to have occurred after the introduction of the Melbourne Response, the compensation scheme for clerical sexual abuse victims established in 1996 by Cardinal Pell, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
The book, Cardinal: The Rise And Fall of George Pell, also contains new information about the child abuse cover-up within the church, including allegations that he knew about paedophile priests earlier than he claimed.
Fresh allegations have emerged about Cardinal George Pell. Photo: Franco Origlia
It is written by ABC journalist Louise Milligan, who revealed historic sex abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell in a 2016 report for the 7.30 program.
Earlier this year, Milligan and her colleague Andy Burns won the Melbourne Press Club’s Gold Quill for their report.ligan interviewed two men, Lyndon Monument and Damian Dignan, who claimed they were sexually assaulted by Cardinal Pell, then a priest, at Ballarat’s Eureka Pool in the late 1970’s.
Police confirmed earlier this year that a brief of evidence against Cardinal Pell had been returned to the Office of Public Prosecutions for consideration.
In October last year, three members of Victoria Police flew to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell, who took part voluntarily.
There is no suggestion Cardinal Pell is guilty of any allegations of child sex abuse, only that they have been investigated by police.
Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell by Louise Milligan.
In her television report from last year, Milligan referred to allegations that Cardinal Pell had also been accused of abusing two choirboys, but the book contains details that have never before been made public.
The boys, who were both students at St Kevin’s College in Toorak and sang in the choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne, were allegedly abused in a back room of the church.
Soon after the alleged abuse took place, both boys asked to leave the choir, according to the book.
Cardinal Pell, 75, is the third most senior member of the Catholic Church and in charge of the Vatican’s finances. He has always vehemently denied sex abuse allegations made against him.
“One of the things that has helped George Pell and his defenders to bat off or gloss over the allegations of Monument and Dignan is the seeming ambiguity of the behaviour, depending on how it is cast,” writes Milligan, now an investigative reporter for ABC’s Four Corners program.
“It’s the notion that this was simply ‘horseplay’ or ‘a bit of rough and tumble’ and that Monument and Dignan, damaged men, had simply misinterpreted what was going on.
“The story of [the choirboys] has no such ambiguity. If these allegations are true, they point to utter, sinful, hypocrisy.”
Milligan’s book, released next week, details the testimony of one alleged victim, a man now aged in his 30s, and the family of a second alleged victim, who died from a drug overdose in 2014.
According to the book, the mother of the second alleged victim suspected her son had been sexually abused and asked him at least twice before his death. He told her he had not been.
But after he died she asked her son’s friend, the first alleged victim.
“I asked him if my son was a victim and he said, ‘Yes’.” The mother was told by the friend that Cardinal Pell allegedly abused both boys.
Milligan writes that the first man reported the allegations to Victoria Police’s SANO Taskforce and the mother of the deceased man also gave a statement to investigators.
In 2015, SANO Taskforce detectives put out a rare public statement appealing for information about allegations of historic sexual abuse against 14-year-old boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral between 1996 and 2001.
Fairfax Media reported at the time that investigators were understood to have executed search warrants on buildings linked to the cathedral, including in East Melbourne and Toorak.
SANO was set up to investigate allegations that emerged from the 2013 Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse involving religious and non-government organisations and also investigates allegations of abuse arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell by Louise Milligan, published by Melbourne University Publishing, available on Monday, mup.com.au.
Cardinal George Pell flies from Rome to London as he strenuously denies new abuse allegations
The Sydney Morning Herald
Cardinal George Pell flew from Rome to London as explosive new details of alleged child sex abuse were levelled against Australia’s most senior Catholic.
Lawyers for Cardinal Pell last night strongly denied the allegations and said they were false, “unjustifiable, scandalous, deliberate and calculated to cause the most shocking damage imaginable to Cardinal Pell”.Cardinal Pell at London’s Heathrow Airport. Photo: Zoie Jones
A soon-to-be-released book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, by ABC reporter Louise Milligan, contains detailed claims that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the late 1990s.
The legal letter also claimed the publication of the book’s allegations were a “deliberate attempt to influence the public opinion in a manner that would make it impossible for our client to receive a fair hearing in court should he be charged”.
The alleged abuse is said to have occurred after the introduction of the Melbourne Response, the compensation scheme for victims of clerical sexual abuse that Cardinal Pell established in 1996 after breaking ranks with the rest of Australia’s bishops who had been working on a national scheme called Towards Healing.
A separate statement from his Rome office on Saturday night, in response to a request for comment on the allegations, accused the book’s publisher, Melbourne University Press, and media organisations including Fairfax Media of “interfering with the course of justice”.
“Cardinal Pell has not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria Police of the status of their investigations, which have been under way since at least February 2016,” the statement said.
“Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by MUP and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false. He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the Royal Commission.”
Cardinal Pell, who is one of the group of nine cardinals who act as a sort of cabinet for Pope Francis, last year told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he was too ill to return to Australia to give evidence in person.
The book also contains new information about the cover-up within the church and allegations that Cardinal Pell knew about paedophile priests earlier than he claimed.
The spokesman for victims’ advocacy group Broken Rites, Wayne Chamley, said allegations surrounding Cardinal Pell have been around for years and it was unusual that the Catholic Church did not make people stand down while they were subject to such claims.
“Usually when a person at top level of an organisation becomes subject of any kind of [allegations of] criminality they would step aside until proceedings are finished,” he said. “For whatever reason Catholic bishops or senior figures don’t seem to do that at all.”
Dr Chamley said it was now a matter of waiting for the outcome of the ongoing police investigation. “Cardinal Pell has always denied any wrongdoing and he has always been willing to co-operate with authorities … but as the matter stands it is an ongoing investigation,” Dr Chamley said.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman told Fairfax Media the brief of evidence surrounding sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell remained with the Office of Public Prosecutions and it was unknown when it would be handed back to police.