Cardinal Pell returns to Australia to face sexual assault charges

SYDNEY (AP) — The most senior Vatican cleric to ever be charged in the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal returned to Australia on Monday to stand trial in his home state on charges alleging he sexually assaulted multiple people years ago.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' top financial adviser, avoided waiting media when he arrived at Sydney Airport on a flight from Singapore. He had declined to comment in Singapore over the weekend as he made his way home from Rome.

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The 76-year-old cleric is due to appear in a court in the Victoria state capital, Melbourne, on July 26 on what Victoria Police described as multiple counts of "historical sexual assault offenses" — meaning crimes that generally occurred years ago. There is no statute of limitations on such crimes in Australia. Police said there were multiple complainants, but have released no other details.

Pell is free ahead of his court hearing, during which he can formally apply for bail.

When police announced the charges last month, Pell vowed to fight the allegations, saying: "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

On Monday, the Sydney archdiocese said the cardinal had made multiple stops on his journey to Australia to avoid long-haul flights, based on the advice of his doctors. Last year, Pell said he was too ill to make the long flight back to his home country to testify before a government inquiry into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to child sex abuse allegations.

"When he was told of the charges by Victoria Police, Cardinal Pell said in Rome he totally rejected the allegations, was completely innocent of the charges and would return to Australia to vigorously defend himself and clear his name," the archdiocese said in a statement. "Cardinal Pell will not be making further comment other than to say he is grateful for the numerous messages of support he continues to receive."

Pell has taken a leave of absence to fight the charges in Australia and has said he intends to return to the Vatican to continue his work as a prefect of the church's economy ministry.

The pope thanked Pell for his "honest" work and collaboration, and said he would wait for Australian justice to run its course before making a judgment himself.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. But more recently, Pell himself became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican to interview him last year.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Rory Connor
4 months 1 week ago

There have been numerous false allegations of child abuse against Bishops (including 3 Archbishops and a Cardinal) in Ireland. This is an extract from my comment on a 2011 article on the Association of [Irish] Catholic Priests website
http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2011/08/two-reflections-on-d…

"Regarding the “culture of deference” you are aware that the media have been telling obscene lies about priests and bishops since at least 1994. I have written an essay about false sex allegations directed at SEVEN Irish bishops between 1994 and 2008.
http://irishsalem.com/irish-controversies/allegations-against-bishops-1…
These comprise Bishop Magee himself (accused twice in 1994 and 1999), the late Archbishops Cahal Daly, John Charles McQuaid, and Thomas Morris, Bishops Brendan Comiskey and Eamon Casey and the late Bishop Peter Birch.

"You are aware that Bishop Magee himself was the target of the initial libel in April 1994 when the UK Guardian was forced to apologise for claiming that an unnamed Irish Bishop was a member of a paedophile ring.
http://www.irishsalem.com/individuals/accused/bishop-john-magee/TheGuar…

"A few months afterwards the government of Albert Reynolds collapsed as a direct result of Pat Rabbitte’s suggestion that there was a conspiracy between Cardinal Daly and Attorney General Harry Whelehan to prevent the extradition of Fr Brendan Smyth. This was followed by an obscene media onslaught against Bishop Comiskey when he went to the USA for treatment for alcoholism. In 1999, TV3 had to apologise for a second (and unrelated ) slander against Bishop Magee while shortly afterwards John Cooney published a biography of Archbishop McQuaid in which he accused him of making sexual advances to underage boys. (This allegation as rejected even by reviewers who praised the remainder of the book!). You are aware that Cooney was made Religious Affairs correspondent of the Irish Independent a few years after the publication of his scurrilous book. (Try to imagine a journalist who similarly slandered a former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, being appointed to the staff of the Irish Catholic.)"
http://www.irishsalem.com/individuals/writers-and-journalists/John-Coon…

COMMENT on 13 July 2017: I suspect the allegations against Cardinal George Pell, former Archbishop of Sydney and then Melbourne, fall into the same category. Of the members of the Irish hierarchy mentioned above, ALL were either Archbishops (including one Cardinal) OR very well-known Bishops. Obscure prelates seem to be safe from this type of claim!

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