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Abbott's response to child sexual abuse by clergy angers victims

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PM has a lot of time for Pell

The Prime Minister describes Cardinal George Pell as a "fine human being" in an interview with 3AW's Neil Mitchell.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott's support for Cardinal George Pell over child sex abuse is inappropriate and factually wrong, victims say.

This new controversy came as the Speaker of the Victorian Parliament, Ken Smith, accused the former Melbourne vicar-general, Gerald Cudmore, of committing perjury in evidence he gave to a parliamentary inquiry in 1993. Mr Smith said highly placed Catholics stifled his inquiry's report.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg.

Mr Abbott told Fairfax Radio that Cardinal Pell, a former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne, was the first senior cleric to take sexual abuse by clergy seriously.

Asked whether Cardinal Pell, now Archbishop of Sydney, carried any responsibility for the failures described by the report of the Victorian inquiry into the church's handling of child sexual abuse, Mr Abbott said he hadn't read it.

''As is pretty well known, I have a lot of time for George Pell … my understanding is that the first senior cleric who took this issue very seriously was in fact Cardinal Pell.''

Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The report, Betrayal of Trust, said the cardinal was reluctant to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the church's failings on criminal child abuse. It also strongly condemned the current Catholic leadership, saying it trivialised and minimised abuse, treated it as ''a short-term embarrassment'', and betrayed the church's purported values.

Advocate Chrissie Foster said Mr Abbott's friendship with the cardinal coloured his thinking. Mrs Foster, two of whose daughters' lives were ruined by paedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell, said after Mr Abbott was elected, she watched him on the platform with his wife and ''three beautiful daughters. I thought of my beautiful daughters and what became of them. The only difference is that my children went to a different Catholic primary school''.

Wayne Chamley, of advocacy group Broken Rites, said Mr Abbott needed to ''check the history''. The first senior cleric to tackle sex abuse by clergy was Sydney Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in the 1990s.

As the architect of the national church abuse protocol Towards Healing, Bishop Robinson quit in 2004, disillusioned with the church's response. Just weeks before that protocol, Cardinal Pell launched the Melbourne Response, which only applies in that city and deflects responsibility for responding to victims away from the archbishop.

Peter Hartcher on Labor

501 comments

  • What else do you expect from this hypocrite?

    Commenter
    Angus I
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 15, 2013, 6:50AM
    • Having Tony in charge of International matters makes things worse. What a joke. Like a Parrot I say it again. You all voted for this. Time to eat those fruits and cakes.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:18AM
    • Agree. Pell's favourite 'boy' behaving exactly as expected. Pimps, whores and holy hypocrites the lot of them.

      Commenter
      Kipper
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:19AM
    • Let's hope Labor are back in by the time the ROYAL COMMISSION release their findings otherwise Abbott will resist all of the recommendations that restrict the power of the cult of Catholicism.

      Commenter
      Tony T
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:22AM
    • Hypocrisy is very much the hallmark of this government. It reminds me of Howard's ferocious loyalty to his Anglican clergyman mate Hollingworth despite cover up allegations.
      It is kind of dumb of Tone deaf Tony not to refrain from this one given that victims groups have been critical of Pell. He appears not to be very smart, our Tones.

      Commenter
      Ledbelly
      Location
      Young
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:30AM
    • We get a different surprise every day. The others have been funny, hilarious, worthy of derision - but this is a gormless grovelling to the devil.

      Abuse does not follow political lines. It doesn't follow religious lines, though there are more rapist Catholic priests than other. But Abbott has just said, to 25% of the population

      "I don't care about your abuse".

      Estimates go further - for every abused person, there is a family - parents, siblings - who have witnessed the carnal carnage and will also interpret this hateful support as a willingness to let Pell escape from his dereliction. If there is a devil on earth, Pell is the Father, Abbott the Son

      This will not be forgotten. Not three years, not ten, not till Abbott passes into the arms of whatever he calls God.

      Commenter
      Axis
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:32AM
    • I expect him to stand up for the People of Australia whose votes put him where he is. For Pm Abbott to stick up for this hypocritical representative of his church is quite an outrage. It clearly shows, that when it comes to not only issues of morality but probable illegal complicity in a cover up, Mr Abbott again fails to see the broader picture and the extent of public outrage over the victims of the very men Pell has tried to protect.

      Commenter
      crowsfeet
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:44AM
    • Attack dogs like Abbott are merely expected to weaken the Government of the day, never to lead one of their own as they lack the intellect, the moral fibre and the ability to see beyond their own personal obsessions necessary. Abbott is Labor's legacy to Australia as he could never have been elected but for Labor's shameful disarray. Ironically though he is fast becoming Labor's greatest asset and the conservatives greatest burden. And he is far too dogmatic to ever change. His only talent was the gaining of power not the exercising of it. For whom does the Pell toll? Be patient Malcolm.

      Commenter
      rext
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 7:51AM
    • I have to agree , Peel does not even look sorry , and for the PM to support him is disgraceful ,

      Commenter
      Michael Loane
      Location
      Ashgrove
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 8:07AM
    • Nothing, and there's one thing I've particularly noticed that Abbott is devoid of, emotional intelligence. And let's not forget his character reference for none other than Nester, another perpetrator. His association with Pell and others is a smear on his judgement of character.
      He just doesn't get it, hence his lack of EI.

      Commenter
      A country gal
      Date and time
      November 15, 2013, 8:07AM

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