Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 1, 2016. An Australian broadcaster has discovered that the cardinal is facing new allegations of abuse. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Vatican finance minister denies lastest abuse allegations

By  Colleen Dulle, Catholic News Service
  • July 28, 2016

An Australian television station said July 26 that it had discovered new allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal George Pell, which the cardinal strongly denied.

The Sano taskforce, Australia's commission to investigate child sexual assault complaints, has been investigating accusations against Cardinal Pell for a year, police said. Several complaints were leaked to the media in February.

The newly released wave of allegations, which the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said it received in eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family members, include claims that the cardinal touched two boys inappropriately in a swimming pool in the 1970s.

They also allege that Cardinal Pell appeared naked with boys in a beach changing room in the 1980s and some other undisclosed complaints dating to the 1990s, the station reported.

In a July 27 statement, Cardinal Pell, now head of the Vatican's finance office, denied all allegations and repeated his February comment that he would cooperate with authorities through the ongoing investigation.

"While the cardinal in no way wishes to cause any harm to those making allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse against him, the simple fact is that they are wrong," the statement read. "The cardinal has cooperated in the past and will continue to cooperate through the proper and appropriate civil authorities."

Cardinal Pell's office said Sano had yet to interview the cardinal in this investigation, which police confirmed.

Graham Ashton, Victoria's police chief commissioner, told reporters that the investigation has been long, and interviews occurred near the end of the process.

In his statement, Cardinal Pell also accused the Victoria police of leaking information to the news network, which Ashton denied, saying the ABC's sources were the alleged victims.

Cardinal Pell called for an investigation into whether the police and ABC had mounted a "conspiracy to pervert the course of justice" in the investigation.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney defended Cardinal Pell in a July 27 statement, saying, "No one is served when such due process is replaced with trial by media."

The archbishop said he was confident Cardinal Pell would cooperate with authorities and testified to the cardinal's character.

"The allegations aired on the ABC do not correspond with the George Pell I know," Archbishop Fisher said. He pointed out that the cardinal was the first bishop in the world to implement a system of investigations into child abuse claims carried out by an independent commissioner and providing financial assistance and counseling to victims.

"While there has been criticism of this system, some of it fair and some of it not so fair, it nonetheless illustrates his commitment to transparency and justice in these matters," Archbishop Fisher wrote.

Cardinal Pell faced abuse allegations in 2002 but was cleared of all charges. In February, he appeared before Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the organization that refers cases to Sano, denying he had any role in covering up widespread sexual abuse in Ballarat, the Australian diocese where he was a priest in the '70s and '80s.

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