Abuse Victims Reject Pell Offer, but Ask to Meet the Pope
By Melissa Cunningham
March 2, 2016
Cardinal George Pell has agreed to meet with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, but victims say they have lost all faith in Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric and have made an impassioned public plea to meet Pope Francis instead.
The announcement came as Cardinal Pell concluded a third day of evidence before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
Ballarat survivor Philip Nagle said victims had grown increasingly frustrated by Cardinal Pell's failure to accept any responsibility for the sexual abuse of children at the hands of clergy and their preference was to meet the world's most senior Catholic.
"George (Pell) is still defending the current model of the church, this model is a proven failure in protecting children against sexual abuse by their clergy," Mr Nagle said.
"He has turned his back on us. We're getting tired of what George is saying on the stand and we've only got two more days left here in Rome and we want to be heard. We want somebody to show that they care about us."
Mr Nagle said the group of survivors wanted to hold the meeting with Pope Francis to push to implement systems to ensure children are never abused by Catholic clergy again.
Cardinal Pell has concluded a third day of evidence before the Royal Commission.
Clergy abuse victim Andrew Collins said the group of men sent a formal request to Pope Francis on Monday.
"We made a formal request via fax, as we were told it was the only way we could contact the Pope," Mr Collins said. "We're yet to get a response."
In the handwritten letter survivors wrote: “This is about children. Children who were abused and damaged in the past and protecting children into the future. We like to request a meeting to discuss a commitment to the children of the past and children of the future to implement systems so this is never repeated.”
Survivor David Ridsdale said victims believed Cardinal Pell had been untruthful in evidence to the commission.
"We've seen a performance from (Cardinal Pell), we've not seen evidence," Mr Ridsdale said.
"The commission has completely demonstrated the lack of structure, the lack of accountability within the church in Australia. They've shown that everybody has known George Pell has consistently pointed the blame elsewhere, has accused everyone of being a liar and deceit and if he is telling the truth that would make him an extraordinary ignorant man."
Survivors will on Thursday meet a member of the Pontifical Commission for Protection on Minors, an institution which deals with the rampant sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic clergy.
A statement released from Cardinal Pell's office said he would be willingly to meet with survivors privately with no legal or media representatives present.
However, it said survivors could bring a support person to the meeting.
"The cardinal would like to be able to listen to survivors and private meetings rather than larger meetings where not everyone may be able to tell their stories and emotions can run high," it read.
The cardinal suggested the meetings be held outside of the Vatican in the Hotel Quirnale, where has given his evidence to the sex abuse inquiry.
He also said in a statement he would assist survivors in their quest to meet Pope Francis, but the responsibility ultimately lay in the hands of officials responsible for considering such requests.