'We were wrong on paedophile priests' - Cardinal
Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30
Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell admitted yesterday the Catholic Church "mucked up" in dealing with paedophile priests and vowed he would not "defend the indefensible" before an Australian inquiry.
The cardinal, pictured, was giving evidence from Rome via video-link to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse rather than appear in person as he has a heart condition. The inquiry is currently focused on the Victorian town of Ballarat, where Pell grew up and worked, and how the Church dealt with complaints against priests, many dating back to the 1970s.
Pell, who rose to be the top Catholic official in Australia, said the Church historically made grave errors in not properly addressing the issue and was now working to remedy them.
"Let me just say this, as an initial clarification, and that is I'm not here to defend the indefensible," he said after swearing on the Bible to tell the truth. "The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those. The Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down."
But he denied the Church's structure was to blame for the way it handled paedophile priests, despite Gail Furness, counsel assisting the commission, saying many inquiries around the world had found those in senior positions did not take proper action. "I don't think it calls into question the divine structure of the Church," he said. "I think the faults overwhelmingly have been more personal faults, personal failures."
Pell has always denied knowing of any child abuse occurring in Ballarat, including by Gerald Ridsdale, seen as Australia's worst paedophile priest who preyed on dozens of children over two decades.