Ethics Institutions

Australians push for Vatican cardinal to testify on abuse

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 6, 2013 ahead of the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Photo by REUTERS/Tony Gentile *Editors: This photo can only be used with RNS-PELL-ABUSE, transmitted May 22, 2015 or RNS-PELL-VATICAN on June 1, 2015 or RNS-VATICAN-TAXES on June 10, 2015 or RNS-VATICAN-ASSETS, originally transmitted on July 16, 2015, and with RNS-SYNOD-FAMILIES, originally transmitted on Oct. 12, 2015

 

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 6, 2013 ahead of the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Photo by  REUTERS/Tony Gentile .  *Editors: This photo can only be used with RNS-PELL-ABUSE, transmitted May 22, 2015.

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican on March 6, 2013, ahead of the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Photo by REUTERS/Tony Gentile.
*Editors: This photo can only be used with RNS-PELL-ABUSE, transmitted May 22, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) More than 55,000 people have signed a petition calling for Cardinal George Pell to return to his native Australia and face a government commission on child sex abuse, after allegations that he tried to bribe the victim of a pedophile priest.

Addressed to Pope Francis, the Change.org petition calls for Pell — the Vatican’s financial chief and former archbishop of Sydney — to answer questions from Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Appearing in person at the government inquiry is necessary in order to “see and listen to the pain of the victims first hand and explain his actions and decisions,” the petition says.

Calls for the cardinal to testify in Australia follow allegations made earlier this week by the nephew of Gerald Ridsdale, an imprisoned abusive priest, who said Pell tried to silence him after he disclosed suffering sexual abuse.

David Ridsdale told the commission on Wednesday (May 20) that Pell tried to bribe him after hearing of the abuse over 20 years ago.

Some of those who have so far signed the online petition said members of their family had been abused by Gerald Ridsdale. “My father was one of his victims who lived a very tormented life, he passed away three years ago after years of drowning his thoughts with alcohol,” one person wrote.

Pell on Wednesday denied the bribery accusations and said he did not try to move Ridsdale between parishes in order to cover up the abuse.

“At no time did I attempt to bribe David Ridsdale or his family or offer any financial inducements for him to be silent. At the time of our discussion the police were already aware of allegations against Gerald Ridsdale and were investigating,” he said in a statement.

Pell said he was “horrified” by survivors’ accounts and described the acts of abuse as “profoundly evil and completely repugnant to me.”

The Australian cardinal, whom Francis brought to Rome to implement reform of the Vatican’s finances, said he would respond to any requests from investigators with further written statements.

Pell gave video testimony to the commission last August, during which he said the church should not be held responsible for the actions of clergy.

KRE/MG END SCAMMELL

About the author

Rosie Scammell

Rosie Scammell is a British journalist with extensive experience reporting for leading international news organizations. She has been based in Italy since 2012 and covers the Vatican for RNS.

6 Comments

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  • Kudos to RNS for publishing Scammell’s report. There is a blackout in the US press on this and any other negative news about the pope. When and if any reports about Pell break through the barrier, they will no doubt include something about how “tough” the pope is on sex abuse but without noting the dozens of appointments the pope has made of men with records as bad or worse than Pell’s.

  • Actually, I think most Australians were rather pleased when Cardinal Pell was promoted and left the country. He is a controversial and confronting prelate who attracts a lot of negative publicity. Testimony at the Royal Commission on Institutional Sexual Abuse has accused him of trying to bribe a complainant to keep him quiet. Even some Catholic priests are urging him to return to Australia to front the Royal Commission in person. See http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/outspoken-priest-kevin-dillon-calls-for-cardinal-george-pell-to-face-commission-20150522-gh7c68.html

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