A Victoria police taskforce has reportedly been investigating Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic and a top Vatican official, for more than a year and has referred child abuse allegations to prosecutors.
Pell has consistently denied the allegations and said claims he abused young children in Victoria are “totally untrue and completely wrong”.
The ABC has reported police are investigating multiple allegations of abuse by Pell in Ballarat, Torquay and Melbourne.
Pell’s office has made a statement to the ABC denying the allegations and describing them as “nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign”.
“If there was any credibility in any of these claims, they would have been pursued by the royal commission by now,” the statement said.
Two men told the ABC Pell groped them at a Victorian pool in the 1970s.
The men, who were in primary school at the time, said Pell abused them when he would frequent Ballarat’s Eureka pool during the summer of 1978-79, according to the ABC.
One of the men, Lyndon Monument, told the ABC’s 7.30 he was reluctant to speak up because of the power Pell held.
“I didn’t like it but because it was a church and he was George Pell, we just – you just weren’t game to ever say anything, you know what I mean,” Monument told 7.30.
The two men, now in their 40s, have given separate statements to Victoria police’s special taskforce Sano last year.
Pell, who was a priest in Ballarat in the 70s, has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying claims he has sexually abused anyone, at any place, at any time, were “totally untrue and completely wrong”.
Last month the Victoria police chief commissioner, Graham Ashton, confirmed child exploitation taskforce Sano was still investigating the cardinal.
It was first reported there was a police investigation into Pell before he was due to give evidence to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in February.
At the time he denied the allegations and called for an inquiry into Victoria police.
with Australian Associated Press
Police are investigating child abuse allegations against Cardinal George Pell who rejects them
July 27, 201610:45pm
Alleged church abuse victims speak out
CATHOLIC cleric George Pell has denied claims that he sexually abused children as police revealed they are investigating a series of child sex abuse allegations against him.
The ABC 730 program revealed that Victoria Police are investigating several complaints from the 1970s to the 1990s from complainants in Ballarat, Torquay and Melbourne for more than a year.
Victoria Police’s Taskforce SANO, which investigates complaints from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, is looking into the allegations.
The allegations relate to a period when Cardinal Pell was the Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.
ABC 730 stated it had eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family relatives, who are assisting the Victorian taskforce.
ABC 730 stated there were two men from Ballarat in their 40s, who alleged Pell touched them inappropriately in 1978-79 at the Eureka pool during a throwing game.
One of the complainants, Lyndon Monument, told police and ABC 730 that Pell would allegedly would touch his penis, testicles and a*** before throwing him up into the air in the pool.
“I tried not to think about it,” he told the program.
“He was always just the godly figure. We all had to look up to him. We would get told in class that George Pell is coming today, so brush your hair and tuck yourself in.”
When asked why he didn’t come forward earlier, he said it was too traumatising to discuss.
“Because it was a lot of pain for not only me but for a lot of other people. And I learnt to deal with things by just keeping them close to me, I suppose,” he said.
In a statement to the ABC, Cardinal Pell’s office said he would not be giving an interview to ABC 730 and “emphatically and unequivocally rejects any allegations of sexual abuse against him”.
Mr Monument also alleges in his statement that Pell invited him into the changerooms after they went swimming.
“He would undress. And then he would say to us to undress. So we would undress. And then he would teach you how to dry your testicles and in between your bum and stuff like that,” he told the program.
When asked by ABC 730 if he was wearing any clothes at the time, Mr Monument said: “No”.
Mr Monument’s childhood friend, Damian Dignan, also told ABC 730 that he told police about the throwing game in the pool with Pell.
Mr Dignan’s allegations remain untested by the law. But he said he was scared of Pell.
“It’s sort of hard to explain. To sit in the confession box with a very, very strong scary man sitting on the other side. We were very, very scared as little kids,” he said.
In another complaint, Les Tyack from Torquay gave a statement to the royal commission last year.
He alleged he walked into the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club in 1986-87 and found George Pell allegedly naked in front of three boys he estimates were aged between eight and 10.
“I thought that was not on. Very strange situation for an adult to be full frontal to three young boys. I said to the young boys, ‘Finish doing what you’re doing, off you go.’ When they left, I then said to, George Pell, ‘I know what you’re up to. P*** off, get out of here. If I see you in this club again, I’ll call the police,’” he told ABC 730.
Another complaint about Pell that ABC 730 aired relates to when he was setting up the Melbourne Response — the Australian Catholic Church’s first attempt to seriously address child abuse in the 1990s.
At the time, he was the Archbishop of Melbourne. The alleged incident involved two teenage choirboys who asked their parents to leave the choir after alleged abuse had occurred. One of the boys died. The other is working with Victorian Taskforce SANO detectives.
ABC 730 said that a spokesman for Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed it is “very much a live investigation”.
The program said that the Pell case has been referred by Victoria Police to the Office of Public Prosecutions for advice.
Cardinal Pell, 75, is Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, serving as the Vatican’s finance chief.
In its statement to the ABC, Cardinal Pell’s office said: “The Cardinal’s conduct has been repeatedly scrutinised over many years, including before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations and according to leaked reports, by Victorian Police’s SANO Taskforce.
“The Cardinal does not wish to cause any distress to any victim of abuse. However, claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong.
“He denies the allegations absolutely, and says that they, and any acceptance of them by the ABC, are nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign which appears to be championed by the ABC. If there was any credibility in any of these claims, they would have been pursued by the Royal Commission by now.
“In February this year media outlets carried stories of purported allegations against the Cardinal which were being investigated by the SANO Taskforce.
“However, no request has been made to interview Cardinal Pell nor has he received any details of these claims from the police or anyone. In late May the Cardinal was advised by the SANO Taskforce that there had been no change in the status of the investigation since the leaks were first reported.
“When Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton was asked in June this year if there were any plans to speak with Cardinal Pell in Rome he replied “…..it had not been put as necessary to me at this point in time.”
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart also issued a statement saying the allegations on ABC 730 do not reflect the man he knows as Cardinal Pell.
“I have known Cardinal Pell as a seminarian, priest, bishop and friend for more than 55 years,” he wrote.
“The allegations made on the ABC 7.30 Report on 27 July against Cardinal Pell do not reflect the man I know or the behaviour which I have observed over the years I have known him.
“All citizens are entitled to have allegations of criminal conduct investigated independently and according to law by the Police.
“Cardinal Pell is entitled to have allegations against him investigated according to the usual lawful processes without being compromised or sensationalised by the media. Cardinal Pell is also like all citizens entitled to the presumption of innocence. All in society are at risk if these basic tenets are breached.”