A Top Pope Aide Calls Church Conduct in Australia Sex Abuse a ‘Catastrophe’

Wall Street Journal

By ROB TAYLOR in Canberra and

A top adviser to Pope Francis on Monday told an Australian inquiry that the failure to halt child abuse by clergy decades ago in the country was “a catastrophe” for both victims and the church. But he denied knowledge of any crimes while he was a priest there at that time.

Cardinal George Pell, who is the Vatican’s financial chief, made the church’s most conciliatory and detailed comments yet regarding accusations of sexual abuse of hundreds of Australian children in the 1970s and 1980s in testimony to a government-appointed Royal Commission.

“It certainly was much, much more difficult for the child to be believed then. The predisposition was not to believe,” Cardinal Pell, 74 years old, told the Australia-based inquiry by video-link from Rome. “The instinct was more to protect the institution, the community of the church, from shame.”

The Australian panel was formed in 2012 to investigate accusations of serious child abuse over decades within institutions including churches, schools, orphanages and sporting clubs. It will eventually report back to government.

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