Cardinal Admits “Scandalous” Response to Abuse Allegations

Cardinal Admits “Scandalous” Response to Abuse Allegations
Cardinal Admits “Scandalous” Response to Abuse Allegations

One of Pope Francis’ top advisers acknowledged he had heard that an Australian Catholic school teacher who serially abused students might be involved in child abuse in the 1970s.

However, he denied knowing how rampant clergy abuse was at the time, during an extraordinary public hearing of an Australian investigative commission just a few blocks from the Vatican.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, who testified via videolink from Rome to the Royal Commission in Sydney from Sunday night to early Monday morning, also conceded that the Catholic Church “has made enormous mistakes” in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests, AP reported.

Two dozen Australian abuse survivors and their companions traveled across the globe to witness Pell’s testimony in a Rome hotel’s conference room, a significant show of accountability in the church’s long-running abuse saga.  The commission agreed to let Pell testify from Rome because he was too ill to travel to Australia.

“I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” Pell said as the hearing began. “The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those.”

The cardinal said the church had “mucked things up and let people down” and for too long had dismissed credible abuse allegations “in absolutely scandalous circumstances”.

Gail Furness, the lead counsel assisting the commission, questioned Pell about current Vatican efforts to address the crisis, as well as Pell’s past in Australia, where he is accused of ignoring warnings when he was an assistant priest about Christian Brother Edward Dowlan, a teacher at St. Patrick’s College in the Australian city of Ballarat.  The deeply Catholic city has been devastated by disclosures about the huge number of abuse victims there, scores of whom killed themselves.

Pell, now Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, has repeatedly denied allegations that he ignored warnings decades ago that Dowlan was abusing students. Under questioning from Furness, Pell said he had heard “one or two fleeting references” to “misbehavior” by Dowlan in the 1970s “which I concluded might have been pedophilia activity.”

But Pell said he had not known victims’ names, that there were large numbers of victims or that Dowlan’s offending was general knowledge at the school.

Dowlan was sentenced to six years in prison last year for abusing 20 boys.