News Headlines > Australian Police take legal advice on whether to prosecute Cardinal Pell on decades-old abuse allegations

18 May 2017 | by Catholic News Service

Australian Police take legal advice on whether to prosecute Cardinal Pell on decades-old abuse allegations

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'Relentless character attacks on Cardinal Pell..stand the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head,' says Sydney bishop

Public prosecutors in Australia's Victoria State have submitted recommendations to Police on whether to try Cardinal George Pell on decades-old abuse allegations, but their advice has not been made public.

Until police decide how to proceed, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said he will not be commenting on the case.

"Justice must be left to run its course," Archbishop Fisher said in a statement May 17.

Archbishop Fisher said Cardinal Pell, currently head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, "has cooperated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and Royal Commission investigations."

"Everyone supports just investigation of complaints, but the relentless character attacks on Cardinal Pell, by some, stand the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head," Archbishop Fisher said. "Australians have a right to expect better from their legal systems and the media. Even churchmen have a right to 'a fair go.'"

Last July, allegations surfaced in a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. featuring several people who accused Cardinal Pell of sexual assault; at least one of the accusations had been found to be unsubstantiated by an Australian court in 2002. Some accusations dated to the late 1970s, when Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat, Australia.

He served as archbishop of Melbourne 1996-2001 and archbishop of Sydney 2001-2014 before being asked to serve at the Vatican.

At the time the allegations surfaced, Cardinal Pell dismissed them as "nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign," and a statement issued by his office said that "claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong."

In October, Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding the accusations. No charges were laid against him.

Last year, the cardinal gave evidence to a royal commission - Australia's highest form of inquiry - about whether he knew paedophiles were active in churches under his watch. He told the hearing that he was deceived by a senior clergyman in the case of a paedophile priest, but admitted he did not act on an abuse claim.

Earlier this week, Cardinal Pell accused an Australian publisher and some media outlets of interfering with justice over the publication of a new book.

The book by ABC reporter Louise Milligan details fresh abuse claims against Cardinal Pell, alleged to have taken place in the 1990s.

A spokesman for the cardinal said on 13 May: "He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the royal commission."


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