FEAR OF SCANDAL LED TO COVER-UP: PELL
In a gruelling session of more than four hours, he told the Victorian inquiry into child abuse that the church had changed the date on a document making serial abuser Des Gannon a priest emeritus and had kept paying a stipend to another paedophile, Ron Pickering, who fled Australia to avoid police.
The Sydney Archbishop said he and his successor as Melbourne Archbishop, Denis Hart, took moral responsibility for helping victims and that the church was open to paying higher sums in compensation – whatever the law deemed necessary.
The church would be happy to contribute to an independently managed redress fund for victims, provided ”others are asked too”.
He denied that he was like Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of the abuse problem, or that the $30 million hostel that the Sydney archdiocese had built in Rome with permanent rooms for him was ”a palace”.
Cardinal Pell said he accepted Victorian Premier Denis Napthine’s challenge at the weekend to be ”fully apologetic and absolutely sorry” and lashed former Melbourne archbishop Frank Little even more strongly than Archbishop Hart did last Monday, calling his actions ”totally reprehensible”.
Illustration: Ron Tandberg
Of former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns, Cardinal Pell said he only learnt recently that Bishop Mulkearns had destroyed files on abusers, and that his actions had disastrous consequences.
But Cardinal Pell defended his own record, particularly in establishing the Melbourne Response system for dealing with abuse victims within 100 days of becoming archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
He said he did not regret not having done more as the Melbourne Response was adequate at the time. He did not believe he had ever moved a paedophile priest and had certainly never covered up criminal behaviour.
In other evidence, Cardinal Pell admitted that the church had kept sending money for a decade via a Melbourne parishioner to paedophile priest Ron Pickering after he fled to England to avoid police investigation.
He also attacked the state government, which he said could have forced the church to do more, as the Wood inquiry did in NSW, and an ”intermittently hostile media”.
Agreeing that the church’s ancient canon law was inadequate for dealing with clergy sex abusers, he said the church was open to further improvements, such as those the inquiry might recommend, and he expected Victoria’s Catholic churches would co-operate in ”taking matters forward”.
He defended clergy celibacy, saying ”marriage is no deterrent to paedophiles”.
There were several lively exchanges with committee members.
Andrea Coote challenged the morality of limiting victims to a ”mere $75,000” when the $30 million hostel in Rome could have doubled the compensation for hundreds of victims.
”The church has never claimed it would be unable to pay appropriate compensation,” Cardinal Pell replied.
Frank McGuire: Do you agree that the Catholic Church placed paedophile priests above the law?
Cardinal Pell: In some cases, unfortunately.
Mr McGuire: ”It was see no evil, hear no evil, do nothing by the church?”
Cardinal Pell: ”That’s an objectionable suggestion with no foundation in the truth.”
On forging the date on a letter about Des Gannon, twice jailed for child sexual abuse, who was allowed to resign on health grounds, David O’Brien said: ”It’s utterly reprehensible isn’t it?” Cardinal Pell: ”It is”.
The cardinal continued: ”You’ve got to blame the archbishop. The way he did it was totally reprehensible.”
Cardinal Pell was questioned at length about supporting serial rapist Gerald Ridsdale in court 20 years ago to the day. He said that because he had always been on the side of victims he did not realise the angst and distress it would cause them.
Another case was the Foster family, two of whose daughters were repeatedly raped over years from the age of five by another serial abuser, Kevin O’Donnell, against whom the church received allegations in 1946, 1958 and 1986.
Anthony Foster told the inquiry last year that Cardinal Pell showed ”a sociopathic lack of empathy” when he met the parents in 1997, and on Monday the cardinal described the meeting as unfortunate. After challenging them to go to court, the Fosters won a settlement of $750,000 plus costs.
On the ”deeply irreligious” Jeff Kennett, who called him in when he was appointed archbishop and said ”if you don’t clean it up I will”, Cardinal Pell said he admired the former premier in many ways, and that they were ”not entirely dissimilar characters”.
In his concluding statement, Cardinal Pell regretted that the church had not been called earlier during the inquiry, which had begun with searing criticism and a response written by Archbishop Hart had not been published until much later.
”Because these charges were unanswered, many people in the public think not only were there many mistakes made a long time ago but there’s been no progress at all over the last 20 years,” he said.
”I don’t think that’s borne out by the facts of the case, but that’s for people to judge.”
Child abuse victim Stephen Wood said his expectations of Cardinal Pell’s testimony had been low and that he had ”lived down to them”.
With Jane Lee.
WHAT PELL SAID
Frank McGuire: Do you agree that the Catholic Church placed paedophile priests above the law.
Cardinal Pell: In some cases, unfortunately.
Mr McGuire: You were playing Pontius Pilate over this. You were washing your hands.
Cardinal Pell: That’s a complete misstatement, a complete misunderstanding.
Mr McGuire: “It was see no evil, hear no evil, do nothing by the church?”
Cardinal Pell: “That’s an objectionable suggestion with no foundation in the truth.”
David O’Brien (on protecting Des Gannon) “It’s utterly reprehensible isn’t it?” “It is”.
Mr O’Brien: “It’s un-Christlike.” “I would have to agree.”
A former Oxford professor, Richard Dawkins, has said that raising a child Catholic is worse than child abuse and that the “mental torment” inflicted by Catholic teachings is worse than any sexual abuse from priests, reports the Daily Mail.
Dawkins is an atheist biologist whose 1976 book “The Selfish Gene” revolutionized the theory of evolution.
His remarks were to be broadcast this weekend by Qatar-based TV network Al Jazzeera.
When asked by interviewer Mehdi Hasan about previous comments he made, Dawkins said: “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.”
Hasan asked: “You believe that being bought up as a Catholic is worse than being abused by a priest?”
Dawkins replied: “There are shades of being abused by a priest, and I quoted an example of a woman in America who wrote to me saying that when she was seven years old she was sexually abused by a priest in his car.
“At the same time a friend of hers, also seven, who was of a Protestant family, died, and she was told that because her friend was Protestant she had gone to Hell and will be roasting in Hell forever.”
“She told me of those two abuses, she got over the physical abuse; it was yucky but she got over it.
“But the mental abuse of being told about Hell, she took years to get over.”
Dawkins added: “It seems to me that telling children that they really, really believe that people who sin are going to go to Hell and roast forever – that your skin grows again when it peels off with burning – it seems to me to be intuitively entirely reasonable that that is a worse form of child abuse, that will give more nightmares, that will give more genuine distress because they really believe.”
Politicians and activists have condemned Dawkins for what they call attention-seeking and “unhelpful” remarks.
Peter Saunders, the chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: “At NAPAC we know that recovery from sexual abuse can take a lifetime. People never get over it. It is entirely unhelpful to make such comparisons.”
Roman Catholic former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: “Dawkins doesn’t know what to say next to get attention. No sane person would believe that being brought up in a force for good, in the Ten Commandments, in the Beatitudes, and in the Gospels can be worse than child abuse.”
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook
The church had hoped that previous cover-ups had done enough to see it’s reputation remain intact, but is admitting defeat and will close it’s doors for the final time on Sunday.
The closure will see an end to a two-thousand year old institution, which insiders hope will be remembered for it’s few good years rather than the couple of thousand pretty awful ones.
One former Catholic told us, “It’s the worshippers I feel sorry for, many of them had no idea the strange man in a dress was fiddling with kids.”
“You know, maybe the clean break will do the worshippers some good? I hear that the Anglicans are recruiting.”
After controversial figure Father Coulson left the church in 2007, many inside the church felt that the worst was behind them, but the latest revelations have once again left Catholicism facing the mercy of the legal system.
Catholicism to close
In the face of mounting criticism, the decision to close has come from the very top, with Vatican officials expected to arrive in the country shortly to oversee the closure.
Speculation is already rife that Carholicism will merely relaunch under a new name in time for next Sunday, with the domain entirelynewcatholicism.net �suspiciously purchased in Rome on Tuesday.
One religious industry watcher told us, “I can’t imagine the Vatican will simply walk away completely, you have to remember that this is a multi billion dollar business empire.”
“You don’t acquire that level of financial success by making poor business decisions.”
“I’m quite sure they’ll rebrand, come back fresh, and this time next year well be asking ‘Catholicism who?’”
Nun told schoolgirls to sleep while she abused classmate, court hears
The young girls, all aged seven or eight in third class, would be told in Irish to “Téigh i do chodladh” by placing their heads on their desks.
And while her classmates slept the nun would indecently assault her, the victim told a trial at Sligo Circuit Court.
She denies all the charges.
The offences are alleged to have taken place in a classroom and at library at a school in the Midlands between 1973 and 1977.
The alleged victim, now aged 47, wept as she told the jury of seven women and five men that she “loved” Sister Peter.
“She was the one teacher who didn’t slap us; if we did things wrong we didn’t get slapped. She was my favourite teacher. I loved her. She gave me a lot of attention. She called me her pet,” said the witness.
“It would be time to correct homework, she would beckon me up to her desk.
“Everybody else had to Téigh i do chodladh (go to sleep).
“I would put my homework on the desk and I would stand beside her. She would whisper in my ear and would tell me I was her pet and eventually she would rub me and put her hands inside my underwear.”
The alleged victim says she only reported her alleged abuse after learning Sister Peter had returned from Africa in 2005 and was holding a fundraising event in their town.
She met with a nun from the same order “because my children were about to start school and I wanted to ensure there would be no nuns in the school.”
Sister Grogan’s defence counsel Geraldine Biggs put it to the witness that her claims were “nothing but a fiction.”
Ms Biggs also suggested that the witness had made the allegations because she was aware of six-figure sums paid out in child abuse cases.
“Oh my God,” said the alleged victim.
“I have never pursued a civil case and I never will.”
A second alleged victim also began giving evidence against Sister Grogan.
The woman, now 45, told the trial before Judge Donagh McDonagh that she was called to the front of the class by the nun to have her homework checked.
Whilst this was taking place, she alleged, Sister Peter would touch her.
“She put her hand into my underwear,” said the witness, crying through her evidence.
The alleged victim described the classroom, with the blackboard, the nun’s desk and a crucifix on the wall.
“She (the nun) would say “good girl” when she rubbed my bottom at her desk,” she told the court.
The witness will be cross-examined tomorrow