Pell blames media for sex abuse investigation

From The Age in Australia:

A defiant Cardinal George Pell has blamed a smear campaign against the Catholic Church for public pressure that led to a royal commission into child sex abuse.

The Archbishop of Sydney said a commission into the Catholic Church was not needed, but he welcomed the broader inquiry announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday night as ”an opportunity to clear the air, to separate fact from fiction”.

He attacked a ”persistent press campaign” and ”general smears that we are covering up and moving people around”, and suggested that abuse by Catholic priests had been singled out and exaggerated.

He also suggested that cynicism about the church’s handling of abuse was confined to the press, and the public understood that the church was serious about tackling the problem.

”We are not interested in denying the extent of misdoing in the Catholic Church. We object to it being exaggerated. We object to being described as the only cab on the rank,” Cardinal Pell told a press conference in Sydney.

”We’ve been unable to convince public opinion for basically the last 20 years that, whatever our imperfections in individual cases, we’ve been serious about this … Because there is a persistent press campaign focused largely on us, that does not mean we are largely the principal culprits.”

At the weekend, Cardinal Pell – defying statistics presented to the Victorian state inquiry into how the churches handled child abuse that Catholic clergy committed six times as much abuse as the rest of the churches combined – insisted the church was no worse than any other.

He said it had been unfairly vilified because of anti-Catholic prejudice.

On Tuesday he again defended church practices and said the royal commission – whose terms of reference and head have yet to be announced – would judge whether the claims were true or a ”significant exaggeration”.

Cardinal Pell suggested media coverage of abuse, which rehashed the same stories, might open old wounds among abuse victims. ”I wonder to what extent the victims are helped by this ongoing furore in the press,” he said.

He also made this curious statement:

Asked whether priests who were told about abuse in the confessional should report it, he said: ”The seal of confession is inviolable.” But if the priest suspected that he would be told of such events, he should refuse to hear the confession. ”That would be my advice, and I would never hear the confession of a priest who is suspected of such a thing.”

It’s unclear to me how a confessor can suspect a particular sin about to be confessed, let alone refuse to hear a confession or decline to offer the sacrament to someone in need.

Read the rest and watch a video of the press conference here. 

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