Placatory Pell leaves key questions hanging

Sydney Morning Herald

Cardinal George Pell has ceded just enough ground at the child abuse royal commission to give victims a glimmer of hope. There is a vague hint that senior Catholic Church leaders are seeing that the culture of turning a blind eye must change.

But the commission has yet to hone in on the key questions raised by victims’ testimony relating to the extent of Cardinal Pell’s specific knowledge of abuse from the 1970s and whether he was open to accepting or acting on it.

In his third appearance at the commission, the Cardinal admitted that “in those days if a priest denied (sexual abuse) activity I was strongly inclined to accept that denial”.

Granted, some adults then might have trusted a priest’s word above a child’s. But Cardinal Pell’s testimony revealed a deeper malaise. Despite knowing of abuse cases, and hearing the “gossip” among colleagues, he still believed adults with vested interests over the children or their carers. He even reminded the commission that the alleged offender John Day in Mildura had a strong body of supporters, including “a wonderful woman” whom the Cardinal knew.

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