Sex Assault Case Closed, Says Pell

ABC News

July 8, 2008

The Catholic Church's most senior figure in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, has conceded a letter he wrote to a man who had been sexually assaulted by a priest was a mistake but has defended his overall handling of the case.

ABC TV's Lateline program last night revealed Sydney's Catholic Archbishop had written to Anthony Jones, saying his claims of sexual assault by Father Terrence Goodall could not be substantiated and there had been no other allegations of abuse by the priest.

Poorly put': Cardinal Pell says he worded the letter badly.

But an internal church investigation had found Mr Jones's complaint to be proven and recommended action be taken.

The church's internal investigator, Howard Murray, also upheld a complaint by an altar boy that Father Goodall had abused him.

Cardinal Pell signed a letter accepting the former altar boy's complaint on the same day he wrote to Mr Jones, who was 28 when he was sexually asaulted in 1982.

He has today admitted that the letter to Mr Jones was badly worded. He says he made the mistake because he understood aggravated sexual assault to be synonymous with rape.

The letter said: "No other complaint of attempted sexual assault has been received against Father Goodall and he categorically denies the accusation."

"Mr Murray was of the opinion that the complaint of attempted aggravated sexual assault cannot be considered to have been substantiated," the Archbishop wrote.

Cardinal Pell says he did not agree with the investigator that Mr Jones's allegation of rape had been substantiated.

"I accepted Howard Murray's two basic recommendations presented in January, 2003," he said today.

"The first one that Father Goodall be assessed for suitability to continue acting as a priest. This was done and then he was stood down from priestly activity.

"Secondly, that the allegations of both complainants had been sustained and that they be offered remedial assistance.

"However, I differed from Murray because I did not believe that there was sufficient evidence of rape where that was alleged...

"[Mr Jones] was asking for $3.5 million in damages and I felt that that was a bit excessive, but if we could do something to ease his pain, his complaints were investigated thoroughly, substantially found to be true with that one exception and the priest was stood down."

In an interview to be aired on ABC Radio's AM program tomorrow, Cardinal Pell has been pressed on how he could dismiss the complaints on the grounds there were no other allegations of assault when he had confirmed he knew of another matter on the same day.

"That was poorly put. I was attempting to inform him that there was no other allegation of rape," he said. "The incidents were run together. That was done badly."

Months after he made the mistake, the Archbishop says he sent a second letter to Mr Jones. He says he did not know he had made a mistake at that time.

Complex trial

In a controversial and complex legal case, Father Goodall was later convicted of the indecent assault of Mr Jones under laws from the time of the incident, when homosexual sex was still illegal.

Cardinal Pell says he now considers the issue closed.

"The judge remarked publicly that his conviction would be unlikely under today's law," he said.

He says Mr Jones's civil claims were settled with the Catholic Church two weeks ago and no compensation will be paid.

The AM program has asked Cardinal Pell whether he was aware of any similar mistakes in other cases.

"There were mistakes made in the letter but otherwise the procedures were good," he said.

"If there are allegations of mismanagement and inactivity, we simply invite the victims or the complainants to go to the police or to the church."


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