Cardinal Pell flip-flops over Royal Commision into clerical sexual abuse

LAST Saturday, Australia’s most senior Catholic strongly expressed his opposition to calls for a Royal Commission to be set up in Australia to investigate clerical child sex abuse, and prattled on about “anti-Catholic bias”.

Cardinal George Pell

According to this report, he was “deeply ashamed” over child sex abuse perpetrated by members of his Church, but did not believe a Royal Commission was warranted.

The Archbishop of Sydney said he accepted that children were abused by priests and that the crimes were covered up by other clergy but believed the Catholic Church was no worse than other organisations,

When he learned today that a Royal Commission is to go ahead, he welcomed the investigation, and said he hoped the new inquiry would clear the air.

He said in a statement:

Public opinion remains unconvinced that the Catholic Church has dealt adequately with sexual abuse. Ongoing and at times one-sided media coverage has deepened this uncertainty. This is one of the reasons for my support for this Royal Commission.

His statement came after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a Royal Commission to investigate decades of child abuse in churches, schools and foster homes.

Gillard said the commission would address “institutional responses to child abuse” – the instances of abuse as well as the manner in which they have been dealt – by a range of institutions.

The announcement follows calls by the “anti-Christian” Greens and some Labor backbenchers for a Royal Commission into abuse in the Catholic Church, after it was alleged by a senior policeman that investigations were hindered and in some cases compromised by church officials.

Gillard stressed the inquiry would not be limited to the Catholic Church.

We will work on the specific terms of reference but this is about children who were in the care of religious organisations – so that’s all religious organisations –  it’s about children who were in state care, it’s about children who were in the care of not-for-profit bodies other than religious organisations, it will therefore go as well to the response of children’s services agencies, and the response of the police.

She added:

The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking. These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject. The individuals concerned deserve the most thorough of investigations into the wrongs that have been committed against them.

They deserve to have their voices heard and their claims investigated. I believe a Royal Commission is the best way to do this.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had earlier given his backing to a Royal Commission, provided it was not limited to the Catholic Church.

On hearing that a Commission would be set up, Pell declared:

I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement. I believe the air should be cleared and the truth uncovered. We shall cooperate fully with the royal commission.

On Saturday he said that it wasn’t just the Catholic Church that believed abusive priests would mend their ways if moved to pastures new.

And, breathtakingly:

Back in those days, they were entitled to think of paedophilia as simply a sin that you would repent of. They didn’t realise that in the worst cases it was an addiction, a raging addiction.

He said that the Catholic Church had rid itself of “a great deal of moral cancer” after abuse claims came to light.

His comments came as NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell announced a special commission to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic Church clergy in the Hunter region.

The commission will be run by prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, and will examine allegations made by a senior serving police officer of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the Newcastle area.

It will also look into alleged cover-ups by members of the church and the police force.

A separate parliamentary inquiry into clergy child abuse allegations is currently taking place in Victoria.

Hat tip: Bill Murray and Tim Davies