By Megan Cornwell
March 7, 2016

The Holy See’s statement was a response to heightened scrutiny from the media

Critics of the Catholic Church's response to the child sex abuse scandal are "sensationalist" and have "a short memory", the Vatican has asserted in a scathing response to Cardinal Pell's evidence in front of an Australian Commission.

Fr Frederico Lombardi SJ, Head of the Vatican press office, said in the statement that "those who are least informed or have a short memory" think the Church has done nothing to combat and respond to "these terrible problems", but that "objective consideration shows that this is not the case".

The Holy See’s statement was a response to heightened scrutiny from the media while Cardinal Pell was giving evidence to Australia’s inquiry into historic child abuse in the Church and as Spotlight won best film at the Oscars.

He praised the "courageous commitment of the popes to facing the crises that subsequently emerged in various situations and countries" and he drew attention to the "60 documents and interventions" dedicated to abuse of minors on the Vatican’s website. Lombardi also highlighted the procedures and guidelines that have been drawn up by episcopal conferences around the world to protect children.

This, he said, was evidence that the Church was taking action to "respond fully and with far-sightedness to a wound that has manifested itself with surprising and devastating gravity".

He went on to say that cases of abuse in the Church have become "very rare" and that overwhelmingly, child abuse happens outside of ecclesiastical contexts.

On the Royal Commission inquiry, Lombardi said it "may be interpreted in a positive light" and praised Cardinal Pell’s "dignified and coherent personal testimony".

At the end of the statement Lombardi said that recognition is due to "many members of the group of victims who came from Australia for demonstrating their willingness to establish constructive dialogue with Cardinal Pell and with the representative of the Commission for the protection of minors".

Pell met last week in Rome with a dozen survivors of abuse from his home town of Ballarat in what he described afterwards as a "hard, honest and occasionally emotional meeting". 

Following the encounter the cardinal pledged himself to trying to support victims particularly trying to prevent the suicide of those who have been abused. He said he wanted to help make Ballarat a place of healing and peace and hoped it could become a centre of practical help for those wounded by abuse. 
One of the survivors, Phil Nagle, described the meeting as positive and said it focussed on the future not the past.  "I think he gets it," Mr Nagle added.


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