The Tablet (UK)

31 October 2016 | by Mark Brolly

Cardinal George Pell has been criticised by counsel assisting Australia’s Royal Commission over his part in the Catholic Church’s response to abuse by clergy and religious in his home town of Ballarat, when he was a consultor to the bishop, and in Melbourne, where he was an auxiliary bishop.

On 31 October, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published written submissions for its public hearings into the response of the Church to allegations of abuse against clergy and religious in the two Victorian cities – including those of counsel assisting the Commission and the Cardinal.

Cardinal Pell maintained in his submissions that he could not be subject to adverse findings by the Commission. In his Ballarat submission, the Cardinal’s counsel, Sam Duggan, concluded that the Royal Commission could not be “comfortably satisfied” that any one of the allegations made against Cardinal Pell had been made. In his submission on the response of the Cardinal when an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne to the case of Fr Peter Searson, parish priest of Holy Family in Doveton, Mr Duggan concluded that “there is no basis for making adverse findings against Bishop Pell, as he then was, with respect to his time in Melbourne as an Auxiliary Bishop”.

“George Pell may now be a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and he accepts by virtue of that position that he is subjected to greater scrutiny than others,” Duggan wrote. “But that does not mean that his involvement in historical events should be inflated or exaggerated because of the position he now holds, nor should the Royal Commission more readily make findings against him because of his title, as opposed to his actual involvement. It is submitted that consistent with the principle of even-handed justice, Cardinal Pell should be treated with the same level of fairness as any other person involved in the matters being considered by the Royal Commission.”

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