Victims advocates: Case against Vatican official should send a message


By Dave Sutor

Robert Hoatson, an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse, thinks the multiple charges of sexual assault filed against Cardinal George Pell in Australia can send a message to organizations that have allegedly protected abusers within their ranks, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Pell, the third-ranking official in the Vatican, has been ordered to appear in court next month, having been accused by police officials of committing vaguely described historical sexual assault offenses.

“I hope it sends the message that law enforcement is watching very carefully,” said Hoatson, founder of the advocacy group Road to Recovery, who has offered support to many victims of alleged abuse perpetrated by priests and other religious leaders in Altoona-Johnstown. “No longer is the church going to be treated differently than any other organization or person.”

Mitchell Garabedian, a nationally known Boston attorney who has represented local victims of child sexual abuse, said, “It sends a clear message to dioceses and orders around the world that child abuse will be prosecuted whenever possible.”

For years, Garabedian and others have contended the alleged abuse and cover-up has gone to the very top of the Catholic Church. “I’m not surprised that a high-ranking Vatican official has been named as a sexual abuser,” Garabedian said.

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