Aussie Cardinal Confesses That the Catholic Church Concealed Child Abuse

Australian Cardinal George Pell has admitted during a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria that the Catholic Church has worked to systemically cover up child sexual abuse in Australian parishes.

The recent papabile described the rape of children as young as five-years-old in response to questions from the inquiry. He declared that he was “fully apologetic and absolutely sorry” for the Church’s complicity, and — when asked whether he considered the acts “totally un-Christ-like” — admitted, “I would have to agree with you.”

Cardinal George Pell (Craig Greenhill – Herald Sun)

But he continued to defend the Church’s efforts to deal with child abuse, insisting that they’ve shown progress and that Pope Francis is “totally committed to improving the situation.” He also hastened to minimize the institution’s complicity, insisting that most of the problem grew out of a culture of silence in which priests did not “gossip” about probable abusers:

If we’d been gossips, which we weren’t, we would have realized earlier just how widespread this business was… I don’t think many, if any, persons in the leadership of the Catholic Church knew what a horrendous widespread mess we were sitting on.

In fact, the cover-up that Pell admits took place goes far deeper than just a failure to “gossip” about other priests. Pell admits that abuser priests have been encouraged to resign “on health grounds” as part of the cover-up, and that former bishop Ronald Mulkearns destroyed documents to keep abuse hidden.

The inquiry also asked Pell about his expressions of support for Father Gerald Risdale, who pled guilty to 30 counts of sexual abuse committed against boys between the ages of 12 and 16. Pell admitted that this was “an expression of solidarity,” because “there was something in the Gospels where Christ speaks about being with the lowest of the low.”

Asked about compensation for victims, Pell defended the practice of awarding a maximum of $75,000 per victim. He claimed that “most victims aren’t particularly interested in the money” and expressed concerns about “bleeding the Church dry” through the proceedings. He balked at the suggestion, made by parliamentary secretary Andrea Coote, that the Church might sell his $30 million property in Rome to fund more generous compensation for abuse victims.

Onlookers have been less than impressed with Pell’s apology, which seems mere empty words to many victims and their families. Some walked out of the courtroom in disgust shortly after he began to speak. Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were abused in the 1980s, noted:

It’s just another apology. It’s the same words again. It’s just not backed up with the actions that we need. What we need is real care for victims.

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Back in the day, Pope John Paul II went to Mexico and, among other things, apologized for scandal. Basically, he said he was sorry the Church was hurt in this matter.

  • Michael W Busch

    Asked about compensation for victims, Pell defended the practice of
    awarding a maximum of $75,000 per victim. He claimed that “most victims
    aren’t particularly interested in the money” and expressed concerns
    about “bleeding the Church dry” through the proceedings.

    Penn State was fined 1.4 million USD per case. Why should the Church be held to anything less?

    The objective here isn’t just to try and compensate the victims – that can never be done adequately. It’s to make it clear that any future attempted cover-ups will not be tolerated.

    And if the Church would be “bled dry”, so what?

    Addendum: Scaling from the US numbers, there were ~1000 cases in Australia in the last 50 years. The Church should be liable for ~1 billion USD/AUD because of those alone. Taking the worldwide number, there have been ~100,000 cases and if we assign the same level of liability as for Penn State, that would roughly equal or slightly exceed the Church’s current assets (although it would be a bit less than its annual revenue). But I have trouble seeing a problem with that.

  • Librepensadora

    Notice that instead of just saying “Yes, (I consider these acts totally in-Christ-like)” he said, “I would have to agree with you.” As in, would have to agree only because he was found out? only because if he answered truthfully he would be subject to even worse public press than he has already received? Wasn’t it Jesus who said just answer yes or no, don’t swear an oath when the question is simple?

  • Librepensadora

    If the church were bled dry, the would be stupefied with disbelief at the absence of anyone offering it even a cup of water.

  • Rich Wilson
  • snoofle

    Even today, if you read some Catholic websites, discussions regarding sexual impropriety of any sort by priests get angry commenters chiding the others for gossiping. Just mentioning this sort of thing is the sin of gossiping according to these people and it should not be discussed at all! It’s really horrendous how desperately they want to cover up any possible negative comments about the Catholic church.

  • duke_of_omnium

    File it under ‘Talk is cheap.’ God forbid that these broken lives should cost the church anything (and God has apparently forbidden it, since ‘God’ is solely a creature of the church)

  • Miss_Beara

    The beacons of morality strike again.

    Gay marriage, contraception, abortion, cohabitation, “feminist nuns”… these are supposed evils of the Church. Raping children? Meh, lets just move the offending priest to another parish and create false documents and whatever else we can do to hide the fact that there are priests raping and molesting children. The good name of the Church comes first, after all! All they care about is their precious Church, money and control. It is another slap in the face for the victims and their families.

  • Amakudari

    “most victims aren’t particularly interested in the money”

    Right, because they’re decent and concerned more about human dignity. The Church apparently isn’t, and going after its money seems to be the best way to get through to its leadership.

  • kagekiri

    That’s odd; what Pell calls “gossip” sounds an awful lot like “basic accountability.”

    Also, the crap about “solidarity” is just ridiculous. The Bible says to hang with the lowest of the low? THAT is your defense? Seriously?

    It also says someone who leads a child astray should be drowned, which I have to assume includes sexually assaulting them and covering up those crimes.

    It also says to expel the immoral brother, and to keep him out of the church. It says not to associate with them; that sure sounds like the opposite of standing with them in their crimes.

    It says to obey the laws of the land, e.g., not raping people and not working to hide the crime. Also, paying the fines for all the horrible damage done to the victims instead of whining that doing your legal duty as a guilty organization is “bleeding you dry”.

    What a total scum-bag.

  • Miss_Beara

    I know! There is also a lot of “well, it happens everywhere so stop bullying the Catholic Church. They do a lot of good things too, you know.” Like that makes it all better?


  • TheG

    At only $75K per abused child, being a child molester is pretty darn cheap, too.

  • Hat Stealer

    My favorite reaction is “look at all those dumb athiests who are concerned about child rape! Don´t they realize that the Church is infallible, and clearly doesn´t bear any responsibility for the actions of a few of its priests?”

    You hear that one from Bad Catholic a lot.

  • Goonies

    Pell is a despicable human being and always has been. Hearing him on the news made me want to hurl; worst, most insincere apology ever! Remember this man is our would be Prime Ministers right hand man! The horror is unspeakable

    On a slight tangent, we do have one church man in Australia that is an absolute gem and if we had more of him I would be happy – Father Bob Maguire, please check him out if you can (he is always getting in trouble with his catholic bosses, the same bosses who have also forced him to resign this year).

  • baal

    After having cases spanning decades (if not hundreds of years) and similar issues in German, US, Canada, Ireland etc, I suspect the default assumption should be that priests are abusing children everywhere unless that country has a steady record of turning them over for criminal prosecution or exiles them to unpopulated islands.

  • Carmelita Spats

    I have never understood why they don’t make the sexual torture of children by clergy an excommunicable offense. You are excommunicated if you desecrate the nasty cracker because Catholics consider it to be “Cookie-fied Jesus”: the real body of a trinitarian-incarnational-atoning-resurrecting-ascending-soon-to-be-returning god who was his own father. Newsflash: Crazy “Cookie Jesus” can handle abuse FAR better than a fragile five-year-old who is sodomized by a paunchy, 60-year-old, maladjusted virgin (priest). Hell, I would prefer that a priest masturbate on the Eucharist or into the communion wine rather than touch a child. Rape is about violence and power. Thus, there must be a greater sense of power and control if they assault the Eucharist (sex with Jesus) and leave the child alone. Christianity is a horribly narcissistic system.