“I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” Cardinal George Pell told an Australian courtroom Monday.
What he did was attempt to explain: how one of the most notorious pedophilia rings in the country could have taken place on his watch, how he could have heard about priests who engaged in “misbehavior” — kissing boys, swimming naked with students — and not reported it, how thousands of children were raped and molested by priests in Australia and elsewhere while the Catholic Church did nothing.
“The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those,” he said via video conference from Rome. “But the church in many places, certainly Australia, has mucked things up … has let people down.”
The investigation into the widespread sexual abuse of children in the city of Ballarat, where Pell was a priest, has brought allegations of exploitation and cover-up extraordinarily far up the Catholic Church’s chain of command; Pell is the church’s Secretariat for the Economy, a position described as the second most powerful in Rome, and he spoke from a hotel that was just blocks from Vatican.
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