Pell under increasing pressure to return

June 01, 2015

Child protection advocate Hetty Johnston says the Catholic Church must order Cardinal George Pell to personally front the abuse royal commission.

The Vatican should order Cardinal George Pell to front the abuse royal commission or risk undermining its efforts to transparently deal with child sexual abuse, a child protection advocate says.

Hetty Johnston has echoed calls by Peter Saunders - the Catholic Church's commissioner for the protection of children - for the cardinal to return to Australia to give evidence at the inquiry.

"The Vatican can't be seen to be hiding him, or providing him some sort of safe port. That will undo everything they are trying to do in terms of being transparent around the sexual assault of children," Ms Johnston told AAP on Monday.

She noted Cardinal Pell's offer to front the commission and said she believed most Australians wanted that to happen.

"He's offered to come back, to his credit. I'm merely suggesting he should do exactly that and the Vatican should make sure that's what happens - not by videolink, be here."

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied claims that he tried, decades ago, to bribe an abuse victim to keep quiet and has rejected suggestions he's been dismissive of victims and dealt with them heartlessly.

Mr Saunders, who was hand picked by the Pope for the child protection role, says the cardinal's position in the church has become untenable "because he now has a catalogue of denials".

"Given the position of George Pell as a cardinal of the church and a position of huge authority within the Vatican, I think he is a massive, massive thorn in the side of Pope Francis's papacy if he's allowed to remain," he told the Nine Network's 60 Minutes.

Cardinal Pell has issued a statement saying he's seeking legal advice over what he calls false and misleading claims made by Mr Saunders.

It said he had always taken a strong stand against child sex abuse and had put in place processes to ensure complaints could be brought forward and independently investigated.

"Cardinal Pell has never met Mr Saunders, who seems to have formed his strong opinions without ever having spoken to His Eminence," the statement said.

The cardinal has promised full co-operation with the royal commission.


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