Australian Inquiry Puts a Top Aide to Pope on the Defensive

New York Times

FEB. 29, 2016

ROME — When Pope Francis was chosen to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics three years ago, he pledged to reform antiquated and troubled Vatican institutions.

He formed an inner circle of nine cardinals as his closest advisers, appointed a commission to deal with sexual abuse of children by the clergy, and another to reform the Vatican’s tangled finances. To pilot the financial reform and serve in his inner circle, Francis chose Cardinal George Pell.

So it was a matter of no small discomfort to the Vatican, and fascination to the world’s media, to see Cardinal Pell testify late Sunday — via video link from a hotel in Rome — before an Australian Royal Commission looking into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

The questioning centered on how much the cardinal knew about a number of priests and brothers accused of pedophilia during the 40 years in which he rose through the ranks of Australia’s clerical hierarchy, and whether he failed to act on the abuses. Many of the accused offenders have been convicted.

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