Cardinal George Pell responds to 60 Minutes’ ‘special investigation’

Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy Cardinal George Pell with  Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, leave a meeting with Pope Francis in the synod hall at the Vatican on 20 February, 2014. Photo: CNS
Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy Cardinal George Pell with Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, leave a meeting with Pope Francis in the synod hall at the Vatican on 20 February, 2014. Photo: CNS

Cardinal George Pell has responded to a 60 Minutes ‘special investigation’ into his handling of child sex abuse allegations, saying it largely repeated claims that the program has previously made at regular intervals since 2002.

The former archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne and now Vatican financial czar says he has repeatedly answered the claims and will do so again when he appears before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse next week.

“Everyone involved, but especially the survivors, is best served by truth and justice as essential ingredients for healing. The cardinal’s aim has always been to help survivors,” a statement issued on his behalf said.

“As usual, 60 Minutes has reported on these matters very selectively. The Royal Commission has already thoroughly examined the Melbourne Response and so-called secret documents. The redress scheme proposed by the Royal Commission has some significant parallels with the Melbourne Response.”

The 60 Minutes piece, entitled “The Bell Tolls”, is introduced on its website by text declaring Cardinal Pell to have been “dogged every step of [his rise through the Catholic hierarchy] by what he knew, and what he did, about the sexual abuse of children”.

“If it wasn’t for Richard Carleton’s interview with the cardinal on 60 Minutes in 2002, he might just have been believable,” the website says.

“But he has since appeared to be a liar, and someone willing to go to great lengths to protect his own reputation. 60 Minutes presents damning new evidence against Pell. He has always argued his intervention on behalf of child abuse victims was innovative, independent and compassionate. But now, secret documents reveal it as a cynical smokescreen designed to protect the Catholic Church at all costs.”

Cardinal Pell also responded to media claims that he had engaged his own lawyers for his appearance at the Royal Commission so as to “grill victims”, citing instead “basic fairness, and part of the procedural requirements of the Royal Commission … that (I have) an opportunity to test the evidence of witnesses who have made allegations about (me)”.

60 Minutes’ piece also included the views of Peter Saunders, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors who, earlier this year, generated global headlines with inflammatory comments about the cardinal.

“60 Minutes also chose not to inform viewers that Mr Peter Saunders’ false and ill-informed views about Cardinal Pell were offered without ever meeting or speaking with him,” Cardinal Pell’s 7 December statement said.

“As the Vatican Press Office has clarified, Mr Saunders speaks only for himself and not for the 17 member (commission), which does not investigate or judge individual cases.”