Pell Denies Sex Abuse Cover-up

By Joel Gibson
Sydney Morning Herald

July 8, 2008

The most senior man in the Australian Catholic Church today denied he covered up the sexual abuse of a man in a 2003 letter.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, also refused to resign, stand aside or order an investigation into the matter.

Cardinal Pell dismissed Anthony Jones' allegations of rape by Father Terrence Goodall despite the findings of a church investigator that they were substantiated.

"There was no cover up," he said. "The accusations against Father Goodall were investigated by the church and the police and Father Goodall was stood down.

Cardinal George Pel addresses the media today.
Photo by Peter Morris

"Church authorities fully cooperated at every stage.''

"The letter to Mr Jones was badly worded and a mistake. I was attempting to inform him that there was no other allegation of rape and I overstated my agreement with Murray, who found all allegations sustained''.

Mr Jones insists Cardinal Pell's second letter was also "dishonest" and about the priest's history of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell wrote to Mr Jones on February 14, 2003, claiming his complaint of sexual assault could not be substantiated because an investigator had found that no other victims had come forward and that Father Goodall had denied the allegations.

However, documents obtained by the ABC show Cardinal Pell wrote to a second victim - who was nine when Father Goodall abused him - to say he was satisfied with the truth of that man's complaint.

Three weeks earlier, Cardinal Pell had received a report from an independent investigation by Howard Murray into Father Goodall, which advised him both men's complaints should be upheld.

In a statement this morning, Cardinal Pell said there had been no attempt at a cover-up.

"The letter to Mr Jones was badly worded and a mistake - an attempt to inform him there was no other allegation of rape ...

"In a subsequent letter soon after the February 2003 letter I expressed my sorrow at what Mr Jones had suffered and offered to meet him."

Mr Jones confirmed he received a second letter in which Cardinal Pell acknowledged the "personal difficulties" in Mr Jones's life as a result of being sexual assaulted, which he said were "a matter of great sadness".

However, Cardinal Pell had again written in the letter that it could not be determined whether Father Goodall's actions were sexual assault, or "homosexual behaviour between two consenting adults", Mr Jones said.

This was despite Mr Murray's report, delivered to Cardinal Pell prior to this second letter, which said Mr Jones "be informed in writing that their allegations have been sustained", Mr Jones said.

While Cardinal Pell offered in the letter to meet with Mr Jones, Mr Jones said he ignored the offer because it was made on the condition the meeting not "be a forum for debating the facts".

"He said he doesn't want a forum ... to discuss the actual matter - what kind of healing would there be when an Archbishop tells you that?"

Mr Jones agreed with Cardinal Pell's description of the initial letter as "badly worded", but said he had still been dishonest in claiming there had been no other complaints of attempted sexual assault against Father Goodall.

"It was poorly written, but it was just a dishonest letter. It's got lies in there, I'm sorry."

He called again for Cardinal Pell to resign ahead of the Pope's visit to Sydney.

"What's the point [of an apology from the Pope to victims of sexual assault, expected during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day] when victims are still being lied to?"


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