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Fury over cardinal's testimony to Australian abuse inquiry

Victim support groups call Pell's analogy 'outrageous' and 'appalling'

<p>Picture: AFP Photo/William West</p>

Picture: AFP Photo/William West

  • Thomas Oriti for ABC
  • Australia
  • August 22, 2014
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Support groups for child sexual abuse victims have expressed their outrage after Cardinal George Pell's testimony at the royal commission in Melbourne last night.

Cardinal Pell appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via videolink from the Vatican.

Saying it would not be appropriate for legal culpability to be "foisted" on church leaders, he drew an analogy between the Catholic Church and a trucking company, citing a hypothetical example of a case involving a woman who was molested by a truck driver.

"It would not be appropriate, because it's contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible," Cardinal Pell said.

"Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.

"If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.

"If in fact the authority figure has been remiss through bad preparation [or] bad procedures or been warned and done nothing or [done something] insufficient, then certainly the church official would be responsible."

Dr Cathy Kezelman from Adults Surviving Child Abuse said the "outrageous" and "appalling" analogy could do a lot of damage.

"The victims are already in this process of being repeatedly traumatised. To have their experiences denied yet again ... drives a knife into the wound and twists it yet again," she said.

Nicky Davis from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was in the audience of the royal commission during Cardinal Pell's comments.

She said the truck analogy left the audience "open mouthed in shock".

"We were literally saying to each other, 'Did he really just say that?'," she said.

"He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors.

"It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behaviour that is inexcusable."

Ms Davis said Cardinal Pell was trying to avoid liability by referring to the sovereignty of the Vatican.

"He's basically saying 'no, we're a foreign state ... you can't hold us accountable'," she said.

"If this foreign state is committing so many crimes on Australian soil against Australia's most vulnerable citizens, why are we putting them in charge of providing social services to vulnerable people?"

The Australian Trucking Association said Cardinal Pell had insulted every truck driver in Australia.

"There are more than 170,000 professional truck drivers in Australia," the chair of the association, Noelene Watson, said in a statement. "They have families and children. Cardinal Pell's analogy is a deep insult to every one of them."

In his testimony to the commission, Cardinal Pell said he was surprised by the number of complaints made in the lead-up to the introduction of the Melbourne Response to abuse within the Catholic Church.

The inquiry has been examining the Catholic Church's Melbourne Response, which Cardinal Pell established when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

Under the scheme, independent commissioners were appointed to investigate claims, a free counselling and support service known as Carelink was created, as well as a panel to provide ex-gratia compensation payments.

Once victims went to police they were no longer eligible for compensation.

"We never anticipated the volume of responses that would go on for years," Cardinal Pell said.

"I was aware there were dozens of complaints."

Full Story: Royal commission: Child abuse victim support groups outraged over Cardinal George Pell's testimony
 
Source: ABC

 

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