Pell under Fire over Handling of Abuse Case

By Jayne Margetts

July 8, 2008

[with link to audio]

MARK COLVIN: The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney has defended his treatment of a man who said he'd been sexually abused by a priest.

In a letter unearthed by ABC TV's Lateline programme, Cardinal George Pell told the complainant, Anthony Jones that investigator, Howard Murray, had not substantiated his claims of attempted rape.

Cardinal Pell says he misread the report in which Mr Murray had in fact recommended the complaint by Mr Jones be sustained.

But Cardinal Pell says he still believes there wasn't sufficient evidence of rape. The victim's lawyer says Cardinal Pell is using legal jargon to fob off his client.

Jayne Margetts reports.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Cardinal George Pell called a media conference today to put forward his case.

GEORGE PELL: There was no cover up. The accusations against Father Goodall, they were investigated both by Church and the Police and Father Goodall, was stood down.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Anthony Jones claims that in 1982, when he was in his late 20s, he was fondled by a Sydney priest, Father Terence Goodall, in a swimming pool.

He says Father Goodall also forced him down on a bed and tried to have sex with him. An investigation by Howard Murray in 2003 found all allegations by Anthony Jones should be sustained without qualification.

But Cardinal Pell wrote to Anthony Jones saying:

GEORGE PELL’S LETTER (voiceover): `Mr Murray was of the opinion that the complaint of attempted aggravated sexual assault cannot be considered to have been substantiated

JAYNE MARGETTS: Today Cardinal Pell said the letter was badly worded.

He also said he misread Murray's findings and reached his own conclusion that there was not enough evidence of rape.

GEORGE PELL: Because I'd come to the conclusion after advice and considering the matter and also confirming that all along Goodall had insisted that it was consensual, and he confirmed that to me.

JOURNALIST: Why did you attribute that to Mr Murray then, why not say, why not…

GEORGE PELL: That was an overstatement. That was an innocent error.

JAYNE MARGETTS: In his letter to Anthony Jones, Cardinal Pell also said there had not been any other complaint of attempted sexual assault against Father Goodall.

But on the same day, he wrote to another man who said he'd also been abused by the same priest as a young boy.

Today Cardinal Pell said he understood sexual assault to be the same as rape and in his mind there had been no other allegations of attempted rape.

GEORGE PELL: 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. I accepted all these findings, including the homosexual misbehaviour, but I repeat, found evidence for rape insufficient.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Anthony Jones says when he received the letter, he interpreted the term sexual assault much more broadly.

ANTHONY JONES: If I touch you sexually that's sexual assault. That's my definition. I disagree with Cardinal Pell's definition.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Mr Jones says Cardinal Pell used legalese to fob him off.

President of the New South Wales Law Society, Hugh Macken, says Cardinal Pell's definition is too narrow.

HUGH MACKEN: The difference between sexual assault and indecent assault is a very grey area. Both a very, very serious crimes which the court has enormous difficulties distinguishing between the two.

And I don't think it's open to Cardinal Pell to determine whether or not it's sexual assault or indecent assault or to find any solace in a distinction that he can find between those two difficult technical legal definitions.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Professor Mark Findlay from Sydney University Law School agrees.

MARK FINDLAY: I think that there's a very strong argument to say that narrow literalist view is not the only interpretation to take. It's a bit like the Bill Clinton argument about sexual relations.

If you talk to the man in the street about this, they would be amazed if you suggested that what we call indecent assault - that's perhaps fondling with a child, is not sexual, is not a sexual assault.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Father Terence Goodall pleaded guilty the indecent assault of Anthony Jones under old laws that made homosexual sex itself illegal.

Anthony Jones says there was an agreement not to pursue the attempted rape charge.

ANTHONY JONES: They were happy as long as we get him criminal conviction, because they themselves were aware that there was another complaint.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Two weeks ago a civil claim against Father Goodall and Cardinal Pell was resolved.

Anthony Jones again:

ANTHONY JONES: In a sense I felt bullied because Pell's lawyers told my lawyers that I owed a couple of $100,000 from the last court case, and that would have meant had I not succeeded in the Supreme Court - ecause I did get the right to sue Pell and Goodall - that I would lose my home.

JAYNE MARGETTS: So in your mind there was no settlement?

ANTHONY JONES: Well there was an agreement.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Which was what?

JAYNE MARGETTS: That they wouldn't sue me for their costs and that I wouldn't continue to sue them for the sexual assault on my person, that I wouldn't sue Pell, and that I wouldn't sue Goodall.

JAYNE MARGETTS: But Cardinal Pell says Mr Jones was unrealistic in his claim.

GEORGE PELL: I mean I do know that he was asking for $3.5-million damages and I felt that was a bit excessive.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Cardinal Pell admits this case is embarrassing in the lead up to World Youth Day.

During the press conference he told journalists that he's praying to God it'll all be over before next weekend.

MARK COLVIN: Jayne Margetts.


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