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Cardinal Pell defends record under hostile questioning by royal commission

March 24, 2014

Cardinal George Pell apologized for the handling of sex-abuse cases, but defended himself against charges that he had ordered an aggressive legal fight against one plaintiff, as he testified before a royal commission investigating the scandal in Australia.

Cardinal Pell—who will soon leave Australia to take up his new responsibilities as prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy—said that both a former private secretary and a past chancellor of the Sydney archdiocese had been inaccurate in their charges that the cardinal made final decisions on legal strategy in the highly publicized case of John Ellis, an abuse victim. He also said that he was unaware of a bid by Ellis to settle the case for a relatively small sum.

Cardinal Pell told the commission that the Church’s approach to sex-abuse complaints has changed dramatically. He acknowledged that many Church leaders at first thought that charges “were being made exclusively or at least predominantly by enemies of the Church.” That attitude changed, he said, after conferences with American bishops, who spoke of what they had learned from their experience with the scandal.

The Australian cardinal faced hostile questioning from the royal commission, as well as hostile coverage from the press. He was heckled and jeered as he appeared before the group.


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