Archbishop had 'blind spot' to abuse

Sky News
March 02, 2016

[with video]

Cardinal George Pell says it was wrong and misleading to allow priests accused of paedophilia to resign on the grounds of ill health.

Cardinal Pell admits he knew about complaints against one of the Melbourne priests who was allowed to resign on health grounds.

Counsel assisting the child abuse royal commission Gail Furness SC said it meant priests could leave without their name being sullied by any allegations and parishioners were misled about the true reasons for the resignation.

Cardinal Pell said: "That would be wrong and inadequate, and another factor in judging the level of wrongness would be the truth or otherwise of the health claims," Cardinal Pell said.

Melbourne priest Fr Desmond Gannon's 1993 resignation was publicly attributed to health reasons despite him admitting to child sex abuse, the commission has heard.

Cardinal Pell, who was an auxiliary bishop and adviser to then Melbourne archbishop Frank Little, said he did not remember being consulted about that decision.

"I would say of course that attributing such a retirement to ill health is misleading and obviously such a person, whatever the reason given, would have to be removed from pastoral activity," he said.

The church had six complaints against another Melbourne priest, David Daniel, before he was allowed to also resign on health grounds in January 1995, the commission heard.

Cardinal Pell admitting knowing about one or more complaints against Daniel before his resignation was accepted and agreed it was misleading to say it was due to ill health.

"That is at least partly misleading, that's correct," he said.

The archdiocese's personnel advisory board, on which Cardinal Pell served, was told Fr Nazareno Fasciale was resigning due to illness in December 1993, despite the archbishop and vicar-general knowing about abuse complaints.

Cardinal Pell said he was not sure if he had heard about the complaints when Fasciale's resignation was accepted.

Gannon and Daniel have been convicted of child abuse.

Fasciale died in 1996 while awaiting trial and the church has claims that he abused 20 children.

Cardinal Pell will front the royal commission for an extended hearing from 7AM AEDT Thursady.


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