Australia Cardinal Denies Cover-up of Sex Abuse

By Tanalee Smith
The Associated Press

July 8, 2008

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) Australia's top Roman Catholic cleric has denied trying to cover up a sexual abuse case involving clergy, attempting Tuesday to fight off an embarrassing scandal just days before Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a visit.

Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, was responding to an ABC Television report Monday that said he had given misleading information to a man who accused a priest of sexually assaulting him more than 25 years ago.

Anthony Jones accused Father Terrence Goodall of abusing him in 1982, when Jones was a 28-year-old religious education coordinator in Sydney. Jones reported his claims to the church in 2003 and the church investigated.

Cardinal George Pell gestures during a press conference in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, July 8, 2008. Australia's top Roman Catholic cleric on Tuesday denied trying to cover up a case of clergy abuse and misleading the victim, fighting off an embarrassing scandal just days before Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a visit. (AP)
Photo by Paul Miller

The church investigation found "homosexual misbehavior" between Goodall and Jones and recommended that Jones' allegations "be sustained without qualification," ABC reported.

But Pell did not follow the investigator's recommendation, and even wrote to Jones telling him that the investigator had not been able to prove the complaint of "attempted aggravated sexual assault."

Pell said Tuesday that while his letter to Jones may have been "badly worded," he stood by his findings that no rape had occurred. He said he based his conclusion on Jones' age at the time and Goodall's insistence that the act had been consensual.

"I accepted all these findings (of the internal investigation), including the homosexual behavior, but I found evidence of rape insufficient," he said.

He said the courts backed his viewpoint when Goodall was convicted in 2005 of indecent assault on Jones but not rape.

ABC reported that a second man, who has not been identified, also claimed to have been abused by Goodall. ABC said another letter from Pell, signed the same day as the one to Jones, informed the second man that his abuse claim against Goodall had been substantiated.

"I had no intention to deceive," said Pell, who noted that the church had taken the proper action against Goodall based on the two victims' claims.

"There was no cover-up. The accusations against Father Goodall were investigated both by the church and the police and Father Goodall was stood down," he said. "Church authorities fully cooperated at every stage."

The archbishop said civil claims by Jones were resolved "by mutual consent" in the Supreme Court two weeks ago. He did not give details

"Cardinal Pell misrepresented the truth," Jones, now 54, told ABC Television. "I now hate Catholicism because of what Cardinal Pell has done to me, more so than what Father Goodall did to me."

He said Pell's comments on Tuesday were misleading, as he had never alleged rape.

"I did not say that he (Goodall) had penetrated me," Jones said. "I was worried he was going to, but he certainly sexually assaulted me."

Clergy sex abuse, some of it dating back more than 50 years, has surfaced in high-profile cases during the past few decades and has become a public issue in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.

The latest scandal in Australia comes ahead of the arrival of the Pope and an expected 200,000 pilgrims in Sydney for World Youth Day from July 15-20.

Pell said Monday that the Pope was likely to apologize to victims of sexual abuse during his visit to Australia, as he did earlier this year in the United States.

Support groups for victims of church abuse in Australia, whose numbers are not known but who activists say are in the thousands, have demanded the pope make a full and open apology for clergy abuse and do more to compensate victims and prevent future abuse.

But Jones said he would prefer that Pell resign.

"What's the point of an apology when the senior ranking titled cleric in the Catholic church of Australia is still covering up sex abuse?" Jones said.


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