Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves the opening session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6, 2014. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Vatican defends Australian cardinal against charges he disregarded pedophile priests

By  Rosie Scammell, Religion News Service
  • June 1, 2015

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican threw its support behind its financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, on Monday (June 1), after he was accused of being “almost sociopathic” in his handling of clergy sex abuse by a leading member of a papal commission dedicated to tackling the issue.

The Vatican spoke out after commission member Peter Saunders, who was abused by a priest as a child, claimed Pell had not done enough to tackle pedophile priests when the cardinal was Australia’s leading cleric.

“I think it’s critical that George Pell is moved aside, that he is sent back to Australia, and that the pope takes the strongest action against him,” Saunders told Australia’s Channel Nine. Saunders also said Pell had behaved in an “almost sociopathic” way.

But the Vatican’s spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said Saunders was speaking individually and not on behalf of the 17-member commission.

The Vatican’s commission “is not competent to investigate or to pronounce specific judgments on individual cases,” Lombardi said. He pointed to a recent statement by Pell on the issue and said it “must be considered reliable and worthy of respect and attention.”

A representative for Pell said the cardinal was seeking legal advice over the “false and misleading claims” made by Saunders, whom he has never met.

An Australian royal commission set up to investigate child sex abuse requested Pell attend the inquiry, following mounting pressure on the cardinal to testify in person.

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