Fear of scandal prompted the cover-up of child sex abuse allegations within the Catholic Church, Australia’s top-ranking Cardinal George Pell admitted Monday.
Pell, speaking at an inquiry by Victoria’s parliament into child sex abuse in the state, denied being personally involved in the cover-up of paedophile priests, but said it was clear it happened.
“The primary motivation would have been to respect the reputation of the church,” he told the inquiry into the abuse of children by religious and non-government bodies.
“There was a fear of scandal.”
Pell, one of eight cardinals selected by Pope Francis to advise him on reforming the Catholic Church’s opaque administration, was speaking on the final day of the probe.
It has already heard that about 620 children were criminally abused by Catholic clergy from the 1930s onwards.
Victims, including children as young as seven or eight who were raped by priests, have told of their experiences at the hearing, which comes ahead of a national royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse.
“I am fully apologetic and absolutely sorry,” Pell, who is Archbishop of Sydney and formerly archbishop of Melbourne, said at the start of his evidence.
“That is the basis for everything which I’ll say now.”