Lawyers representing George Pell have demanded an apology and retraction from Fairfax and The Guardian over articles repeating child sexual abuse allegations made in a new book described by the cardinal as a “character assassination”.
The legal demands were sent to the media outlets at the weekend after a book made a series of allegations against Cardinal Pell over his role in the sex abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church.
They include unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing by Cardinal Pell, who has stridently rejected any misconduct.
The articles published at the weekend reported allegations made in ABC journalist Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, published by MUP.
In a statement to The Australian last night, a spokesman for the cardinal responded by saying: “Each and every allegation of abuse and cover up against him is false. The book is an exercise in character assassination.
“The decision by MUP to bring forward the publication of the book prior to any findings by the royal commission and while allegations are still under consideration by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions is a blatant attempt to interfere in the course of justice.
“Unlike MUP, the cardinal will not interfere with the course of justice. He will await the outcome of due process before launching defamation action.”
An earlier statement from the cardinal said: “It seems that Melbourne University Publishing and some media organisations, including The Guardian and Fairfax newspapers, are interfering with the course of justice,” it said.
Neither Fairfax nor The Guardianresponded to The Australian before publication.
Prominent Melbourne criminal barrister Peter Faris QC said without charges laid, no criminal justice process was being interfered with and there was no contempt of court.
MUP chief executive Louise Adler said the publishing house had received letters from Cardinal Pell’s representatives but no legal action had been threatened.