Australian Police Investigate Abuse Accusations against Cardinal George Pell

By Brett Cole
New York Times
July 28, 2016

Cardinal George Pell in Rome in March. The cardinal’s office has denied accusations of child sexual assault. Credit Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press

Cardinal George Pell, the de facto Vatican treasurer and Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, is being investigated in connection with multiple allegations of child sexual assault that date back four decades, a top police official said on Thursday.

The official, Graham Ashton, chief police commissioner of the Australian state of Victoria, confirmed a report by the government-run Australian Broadcasting Corporation that detectives were investigating and had submitted an account of the allegations to Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions.

“We investigated and are still investigating,” Mr. Ashton said in an interview with the radio station 3AW in Melbourne, when asked about an inquiry.

The Victoria police have established a task force that is looking into such allegations in both religious and nongovernmental organizations.

Earlier, the police had refused to indicate whether Cardinal Pell was the subject of the investigation, which the ABC reported on Wednesday. But in an email, the police said, “Detectives are investigating allegations of historical sexual assaults committed in Ballarat East between 1976 and 1980 and East Melbourne between 1996 and 2001.”

The email added: “A brief of evidence has been prepared and presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice. Once the advice from the D.P.P. is received it will be reviewed. However, as with any investigation, it remains a decision for Victoria police as to whether charges will be laid.”

Cardinal Pell, 75, was elevated to his current rank in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. Now based in the Vatican, he is the Catholic Church’s prefect of secretariat for the economy and has also been entrusted by Pope Francis with improving the Holy See’s financial planning, auditing and reporting.

In a statement to the ABC, the cardinal’s office denied the allegations.

“Claims he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong,” the statement said.

Australia’s Catholic Church declined to comment on the matter on Thursday, referring questions to the cardinal’s office at the Vatican.

Cardinal Pell was born and grew up in Ballarat, a Victorian country town. After being ordained as a priest, he began work in the area, best known as a center for gold mining in the 1850s.

The ABC reported that two men have said that he sexually abused them at a swimming pool in Ballarat in the 1970s.

“I didn’t like it,” one of the accusers, Lyndon Monument, told the broadcaster. “But because it was the church, he was George Pell, we just weren’t game ever to say anything.”

In 2013, Australia established a royal commission, an investigation into matters of great national importance, into the sexual abuse of children within institutions. Its inquiries are continuing.

As archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, Cardinal Pell coordinated the response by the church in the city to allegations of child sexual abuse. In 2012, he said that the news media had begun a campaign against the Catholic Church, but since then he has had to answer questions about abuse allegations before both the royal commission and a Victorian parliamentary inquiry. In 2014, he apologized to a former altar boy who was abused by a priest, and he has also said that victims of abuse have the right to sue the church.








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