Catholic archbishop is cleared of sexual abuse allegations

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Europe Intelligence Wire

October 15, 2002

(From The Independent)

Byline: Mike Corder in Sydney

AUSTRALIA’S MOST senior Roman Catholic cleric, George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, has been cleared of child sex abuse by an internal church inquiry led by an independent judge.

Archbishop Pell denied molesting a 12-year-old boy on several occasions in 1961 at a camp on Phillip Island, when he was a trainee priest.

The results of an inquiry by a retired Supreme Court judge, Alec Southwell, were posted on the church’s website yesterday. He reported that he was “not satisfied that the complaint has been established”.

Archbishop Pell said he was grateful that the inquiry had exonerated him and that he had relied on prayer to get him through the past few months. “When a person is under extreme pressure, personal values may crumble,” he told reporters in Sydney. “However, my Catholic convictions sustained me during these dark weeks.”

The judge said that given the delay between the alleged abuse and the complaint being made earlier this year it was impossible to produce evidence to support the allegation.

Mr Southwell also cited Archbishop Pell’s vehement denial of the allegations and “some valid criticism of the complainant’s credibility” as factors in his judgment.

The inquiry included closed-door hearings in Melbourne from 30 September to 4 October.

Archbishop Pell was voluntarily suspended as Sydney’s archbishop immediately after the allegations were made. He described the claim as “a smear of the most vindictive kind”.

Peter Ward, a lawyer for the accuser, whose name has not been released, said his client was satisfied with the inquiry and would not be taking the allegations further.

Archbishop Pell was appointed in May last year. Earlier this year, he was quoted as saying at a conference in Canada that abortion was a worse crime than child abuse by priests. He said he had been quoted out of context and released a statement saying child sexual abuse was a grave moral scandal, as was abortion.

He admitted on a current affairs programme that he had offered a family thousands of dollars after their two daughters had been sexually abused by a priest for six years. He denied that the money was intended to buy the family’s silence, saying it was meant as compensation.


Pell cleared of any wrongdoing

The World Today – Monday, 14 October , 2002  00:00:00

Reporter: Rafael Epstein

ELEANOR HALL: The Catholic Church’s Internal Inquiry into sexual abuse allegations against Sydney Archbishop George Pell, has cleared him of any wrongdoing. Inquiry Chair, retired Supreme Court Judge Alec Southwell, said many of the witnesses who testified against George Pell were “impressive”, and spoke with a “clear recollection” of events. But Mr Southwell also said Archbishop Pell spoke honestly in denying the claims, and ultimately he could find no clear evidence to uphold the complaint, as Rafael Epstein reports.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: In the sometimes controversial career of Archbishop George Pell, no event has rocked the church as much as the claim he abused a choirboy at a Church camp in the 1960s. He even stepped aside from his Archbishop duties in Sydney while the inquiry proceeded.

But even though retired judge, Alec Southwell, said he could find few flaws with the man alleging he was abused, Alec Southwell said he knew an adverse finding would, in all probability have grave indeed, devastating consequences for Archbishop Pell. Lawyer for the man claiming abuse, Peter Ward, says his client now feels vindicated.

PETER WARD: Delighted with the finding. My client feels vindicated, and I want to emphasise that the proceedings were extremely fair, and the report of the Commissioner in my view, was extremely balanced.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: He seemed to accept a lot of the evidence made by your client, but came up with the final conclusion that there was no finding of a proper complaint against Archbishop Pell. Why are you happy with that?

PETER WARD: Basically, he has indicated that he accepts the submission of Mr Toby QC of Council that the complainant when giving evidence of the molestation gave the impression that he was speaking honestly. However, he added that he accepted that his Grace, the Archbishop was also telling the truth, and he came to the conclusion on the basis that there’d been a 40 year gap since the hearing, and he was not satisfied that the complaint was made out.

But I want to make a couple of points very quickly. Initially it was said that the complaint was vindictive. The report clearly disputes that assertion. It also accepts that the complainant was attempting to be truthful, and in our view, it was a very balanced judgement.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Are you going to take this further? Is there any possibility?

PETER WARD: Absolutely not. The complainant wants closure, he’s had his opportunity, he has had a fair and equitable hearing, and he will now just let it go, let it go.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Alec Southwell said there was no evidence of any malice or spit on behalf of the complainant toward either Archbishop Pell or the Catholic Church. But he said while the man’s credibility was the subject of a forceful attack, he said there was sufficient evidence of dishonesty in the man’s criminal past to demonstrate that his evidence had to be scrutinised with special care.

The fact that your client’s history, his criminal history was released by somebody to the media, that had been an issue for you in the past. Does this finding clear that up at all?

PETER WARD: Oh, no. See, one has to distinguish the fact that his criminal history was released was a disgrace, however, the actual hearing, the in camera hearing, was conducted with integrity and fairness. So we are still annoyed by the leakages, but the actual substance of the hearing was fair and equitable.

ELEANOR HALL: Peter Ward is the lawyer for the man who made the accusations against Sydney Archbishop George Pell who was, today, cleared of the charges. Rafael Epstein with our report.

11 Responses to Catholic archbishop is cleared of sexual abuse allegations

  1. JG" says:

    I have not stopped reading on the subject of Cardinal Pell because there seems to be so many “unexplained” circumstances…
    Just the quote: “not satisfied that the complaint has been established”. I was wondering if both the complainant and the Cardinal were “believed”, why not confirm with a polygraph??
    It seems the complainant had a criminal record which was inadvertently brought to light…How helpful was that in justifying the the measure of each man, I wonder? In the ABC report, the Cardinal is referred to as “His Grace”…
    His Grace vs “the criminal”!!!

    Then the comments by Pell(taken out of context, of course!) that abortion was worse than child abuse, then retracted, corrected, rewound…
    This was 2002 reporting and of course they then still put a lot of weight on the 40 years since the offense. We now know that is not so uncommon for victims to need all this time to come forward.
    Then this was not explained in any way: “a smear of the most vindictive kind”.
    Why the “vindictive” qualifier?….
    We re not getting much of the story are we…

    …”my Catholic convictions sustained me during these dark weeks.” and helped dodge several bullets…

    Big question marks heading to Rome!

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    In most cases, a complainant’s past history is not admissible. It seems Pell gets “special” treatment, especially when it comes to money. Mike.

  3. JG" says:

    Right. Money and friends in high places never seem to be lacking for the defendants with a title. I find there appears to be such a similar approach by the Cardinal, or his team, in the accusations of 2002 and the case involving Mr. Ellis.
    It seems the plan was to find the weakness of the accuser and to attack, destroy their credibility. In both cases one could correctly suppose that this weakness was directly related to the trauma of the abuse. Not surprising that a victim could derail into some form of criminality…alcohol, drug abuse, lack of self esteem leading to destructive or even violent behavior… That should have been taken into account by the retired Judge in 2002. Maybe he was too concerned by the effect this accusation or his ruling would have on the Archbishop?!…The past of the accuser was revealed through some unfortunate leak, according to the ABC link in my previous post. In all ended quite abruptly to “everyone’s” satisfaction, probably through a settlement. That’s the only logic I can see.
    A broken life or a broken person shouldn’t be penalized because he is facing someone with “status”…I am thinking “Justice”, blind and impartial! Is it really possible when we are so easily influenced by the “class” and the educated words of a lawyer or those of a Cardinal taking cover behind his religious connections…
    This is like reading a book where the pages of the last chapter have been ripped out !…

  4. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Is it any small wonder that Pell and his associates are being called “on the carpet’ all over the world? These bishops, and their sense of “entitlement” (Brian Mulroney – “I am entitled to my entitlements”) know no bounds.
    Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta has been living like King Midas in a $2.2 million dollar mansion. When confronted by the Vatican, he says he “will sell the property, if it is the will of the church, and it’s advisers”. O.M.G.!!!!!
    Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (Bishop of Bling) spent $43 million dollars of church money “refurbishing” his mansion. “Refurbishments” included a $20 thousand dollar bathtub, and a $4 million dollar chapel. Under the bishop’s direction, the workers were to do the work “in the strictest of secrecy”!!!!!!!!!! Following the bishop’s removal from his position, the Vatican stated that “he can no longer carry out the “fruitful exercise of his ministry there”. FRUITFUL, I guess so!!!!!! For God’s sake, the man wears lipstick. Just look at him!!!!!
    The point I’m making here is it’s no small wonder that the church is in trouble over their handling, or lack thereof, of sexual abuse by clergy cases.
    These bishops, including Pell, are out to lunch. They are the bosses here, supposedly the pinnacle of clear, moral thinking. If these examples reflect this clear, moral thinking of these bishops, how can a 10 year old boy expect to be treated if he complains to one of these creatures about being sexually abused by one of their priests?
    Welcome to Pell’s world. Mike.

  5. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Thanks for the chuckle! This situation in Australia is FAR from humorous, but you managed to put a smile on my face. It has caused me to wonder if Old Spice is used at Imperial HQ.
    When the Mother Ship returns to pick up these creatures, I hope for their own good that they are in fact wearing Old Spice. Mike.

  6. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Your statement regarding facing someone of “status’ really spoke to me. I personally find “status” and “moral ethics and theology” in the same bucket.
    “Status” is a sign of the times, and reflects present day “morals and ethics”.

    “Morals and ethics” evolve in history, and reflect the priorities of any given society throughout the ages. Remember, it was quite ethical and acceptable for the Incan culture to sacrifice humans to appease the gods. It was also acceptable and ethical in the 13th and 14th centuries to burn people alive, at the stake in public, if they had been deemed witches, or involved in witchcraft in any peripheral way.
    Perhaps the church now deems it “morally acceptable” by people in “status” to lie, manipulate, and abuse, all in the name of protecting the holy church’s reputation. Mike.

    • JG" says:

      Hi Mike .
      My comment was in relation to Cardinal Pell and how a Judge may have viewed him differently than he did one or two in his flock!… If the Cardinal and others who committed to a religious life viewed themselves as the “servants” they were called to be, it wouldn’t be hard for the rest of us or even possible for a Judge to think of religious leaders as having “more to loose” than the poorest of the poor. As we have seen elsewhere the obscenity of a Bishop or Archbishop living in a multi-million dollar home and deciding to do without (!!)would not enter our imagination: it would never happen in the first place. They shouldn’t be asking for “clemency” for the wrongs they have committed because of the “Good” they otherwise perform: that’s what they signed on for, to spend their life in the “imitation” of Christ. That should be the only preoccupation of their days and they should be embarrassed if anyone viewed them as more than the least among us!…
      They should be leading the “ethics and morality” Crusade without making any fuss about it. They should strive for that “imitation” everyday with every breath they take and when the cameras are turned off!…Otherwise, no matter their education or the perceived “status”, they have failed at the most important job they could ever commit to , that of the “shepherd”…
      The Church and those who would lead only need to return to the “first Words”, the origins, without rationalizing, justifying or adapting “to the times”. That hasn’t changed in two thousand years, only the excuses for doing differently than “doing for others…” It is not supposed to be easy.
      Religious life is not “show-business”…not marble floors, not golden rings, not riches of the world.
      It is a life of “servants”. That is what the young rich man could not accept and why he turned and walked away. Many who now call themselves priests, bishops,…should have been as smart as he was.

      • 1 abandoned sheep says:

        JG, the very idea of a current Bishop or Cardinal thinking of himself as a SERVANT, causes a mental block for me!
        Too many of them act like rock stars, and think, or seem to think, they are the Good News!
        I still remember a Priest of the Pembroke Diocese telling me the Former Bishop Sm1th ( the last Bishop Smith there) had told some of the Priests to not get concerned about him- he was just passing through! And, it seems he was right. In a short time he was named Archbishop of Edmonton, which carries with it a VERY big and expensive house!
        The many good Priests I know who are indeed SERVANTS, are the shining light which exposes these phonies !

        • JG" says:

          I agree entirely with the rock star problem! That explains a lot of the corruption which has built up over time.
          If those “true servants” don’t get detracted by all that shines, they should inherit!…and those just going through will be shown the way out the back door!

  7. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    I guess I’m on a roll here, so why stop now!
    We’ve never met or spoken directly to each other, but I’ve come to know you anonymously through this site, and respect what you have to say.
    I think you might enjoy a book my Dad gave me years ago. It’s not easy reading at all, but well worth the effort.
    “Ascent to Truth” by Thomas Merton. Fasten your seatbelt, and read on! Mike.

    • JG" says:

      I was also given a Thomas Merton book when I was about 17 and was “visiting” a Trappist monastery. I was reading a lot back then and realized I would have to live and learn on my own otherwise I would become a bit of everyone else and very little of myself…I thank you for your suggestion which seems to be at the appropriate time in this life.
      I am not so anonymous and I have also followed your contributions. I have been coming to Sylvia’s site for four years now and I remember recently you posted a brief snapshot of Madonna House, the farm, simplicity and self-sufficiency…I was there for a few months also as a teenager. Fond memories of many good people, often wonder what became of them…Maybe we exchanged about this before?…
      Anyway, we seem to have followed similar paths in some aspects.
      We are all so different yet so similar.
      Enjoy the simple journey!

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