Cardinal Pell reacts to royal commission
RAW VISION: Cardinal George Pell, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, reacts to announcement of a royal commission into child sexual abuse.PT6M41S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-299kn 620 349 November 13, 2012
The country’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, has hit out at "exaggeration" and "smears" against the church over alleged cover-ups of child sexual abuse, while welcoming the royal commission announced by the federal government.
Cardinal Pell said he expected to be called to give evidence at the royal commission against claims he had participated in the cover-up of abuse by priests and would co-operate fully.
"We think it's an opportunity to help the victims, it's an opportunity to clear the air, to separate fact from fiction," he said.
Cardinal George Pell ... "an opportunity to help the victims". Photo: Anthony Johnson
"We acknowledge, with shame, the extent of the problem and I want to assure you that we have been serious in attempting to eradicate it and deal with it."
Just hours after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the royal commission on Monday, police revealed new arrests had been made of a Catholic priest and brother over historical sex offences at a college and primary school in Sydney’s west.
Though Cardinal Pell said he welcomed the royal commission, he hit out at what he described as a "campaign" by the media and exaggeration by some of the extent of the problem within the church.
"This commission will enable those claims to be validated or found to be a significant exaggeration," he said.
"There is a persistent press campaign against the Catholic church’s adequacies and inadequacies in this area, that does not necessarily represent the percentage of the problem that we offer."
"One question to ask is whether victims are helped by continuing furore in the press over these allegations. The pursuit of justice is an absolute entitlement for everyone."
"That being said, what extent are wounds simply opened by the re-running of events which have been reported not only once but many times previously."
Cardinal Pell repeatedly drew journalists' attention to the procedures the church had put in place in recent decades, such as the 'Towards Healing' protocols introduced by the Catholic church in Australia in 1996.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said he was pressing on with the establishment of a special commission of inquiry in NSW but did not want its terms of reference to overlap with those of the federal government's royal commission.
Mr O'Farrell said he had spoken to Prime Minister Julia Gillard at 5pm on Monday and said NSW would fully support the federal inquiry.
''What we don't want is inquiries falling over each other,'' he said. ''What we do want to do is to ensure the sorts of allegations raised by [Detective Inspector] Peter Fox do get investigated.''
Mr O'Farrell said Detective Inspector Fox's allegations deserved respect and a full investigation and he should not be forced out of his job for blowing the whistle.
- with Anna Patty and AAP
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