Pell Says Sorry for Priest Sex Abuse Letter

By Annabel Stafford
The Age

August 12, 2008

AUSTRALIA'S most senior Catholic, Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, has apologised to the man at the centre of the sex abuse scandal that threatened to derail July's World Youth Day.

But Dr Pell has apologised only for badly drafting a 2003 letter in which he said Anthony Jones' claims of sexual assault at the hands of Father Terence Goodall could not be substantiated.

He did not apologise for dismissing Mr Jones' claims or for subsequently suggesting the attack could have been consensual, despite revelations Father Goodall had admitted forcing himself on Mr Jones.

"I do apologise to you for my (2003) letter which was poorly drafted and, I regret, open to interpretations which I did not intend," Dr Pell said to Mr Jones in a letter that arrived yesterday. Dr Pell also offered to meet Mr Jones and promised a formal response to his complaint against the church within weeks.

But Mr Jones was scathing about Dr Pell's apology, saying: "I expected an apology (in which he admitted) he got the whole thing wrong. Until that happens, there will be no peace."

He accused Dr Pell of being aware since 2005 of Father Goodall's admission the attack was not consensual, "so his apology is not genuine". Dr Pell was forced to re-examine Mr Jones' case following a series of revelations on the ABC's Lateline in the lead-up to last month's World Youth Day festival.

Lateline revealed Dr Pell had falsely told Mr Jones that there had been no other complaints made about Father Goodall and that his allegations could not be substantiated. In fact, there had been other complaints and a church investigator had concluded Mr Jones' claims could be upheld.

Lateline also revealed - contrary to Dr Pell's suggestion the assault might have been consensual - that Father Goodall had admitted to assaulting Mr Jones in a taped phone conversation.

Speaking yesterday at the Sydney launch of a new book about Catholic activist B. A. Santamaria, Dr Pell said the independent panel he had appointed to re-examine Mr Jones' case had met "at least once" and was continuing to examine the matter. But he would not be drawn on his letter to Mr Jones. "The matter is not concluded yet and it is a lot better to try to make progress on these issues at a personal level rather than through the press."

Dr Pell also appeared to dismiss victims' demands the church overhaul the way it deals with sex abuse claims in the courts, chiefly by identifying an entity against which claims can be made rather than refusing to nominate a responsible body.

"We've looked at these issues and we have the same rights as other citizens and will continue to exercise them legally and well," he said.

Dr Pell also said news that several World Youth Day pilgrims had sought asylum in Australia was not "entirely unexpected".

NSW Asylum Seekers Centre director Tamara Domicelj confirmed about 20 pilgrims had contacted her centre for help in claiming asylum.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.