Cardinal George Pell fires back over 'outrageous' child abuse claims

Allegations that Cardinal George Pell molested minors while he was a priest and the Archbishop of Melbourne are "without foundation and utterly false", the Catholic Church says.

The Herald Sun newspaper on Friday reported that Victoria Police Sano taskforce is investigating the Cardinal for allegedly committing "multiple offences" while he was a priest in Ballarat and also the Archbishop of Melbourne.

According to the Herald Sun, Victoria police are investigating allegations Cardinal Pell sexually abused minors by “both grooming and opportunity’’.

Allegations that Cardinal George Pell molested minors while he was a priest and the Archbishop of Melbourne are


The revelations prompted global abuse survivors' network SNAP to call on Pope Francis to immediately suspend the 74-year-old from his senior role in the Vatican's bureaucracy.

"Over a year, more than a dozen cops and they say they've found five or 10 alleged victims of Pope Francis's top aide," SNAP spokesperson Joelle Casteix said.

"That's pretty credible and serious. For the safety of kids, the pontiff should suspend Pell."

Details of the probe emerged a week before Pell is due to give evidence by video link to an Australian inquiry into abuse by priests in the town of Ballarat, near Melbourne.

The cardinal has been derided for saying he is too ill to make the journey home to testify in person over alleged cover-ups during his time as the head of Australia's Catholic hierarchy.

He has always denied knowing about any abuse in Ballarat. In his statement he attacked the leaking of details of the ongoing investigation to the Herald Sun as malicious and the allegations against him as spurious.

"The timing of these leaks is clearly designed to do maximum damage to the cardinal and the Catholic Church and undermines the work of the Royal Commission (inquiry)," the statement said.

"It is outrageous that these allegations have been brought to the cardinal's attention through a media leak."

The full statement is listed below.



Accusing elements in the Victoria police of trying to smear him, Pell called for a public inquiry into the leak.

"These types of unfair attacks diminish the work of those good officers of the police who are diligently working to bring justice to victims," it said.

The statement said Pell had been exonerated by a previous Australian investigation into false allegations against him, and insisted he would be cleared again.

"The Southwell Report which exonerated Cardinal Pell has been in the public domain since 2002," it said.

The Southwell Report which exonerated Cardinal Pell has been in the public domain since 2002.

"The Victorian police have taken no steps in all of that time to pursue the false allegations made, however the cardinal certainly has no objection to them reviewing the materials that led Justice Southwell to exonerate him. The cardinal is certain that the police will quickly reach the conclusion that the allegations are false.

"The Victorian Police have never sought to interview him in relation to any allegations of child sexual abuse and apart from the false allegations investigated by Justice Southwell, the cardinal knows of no claims or incidents which relate to him. He strongly denies any wrongdoing. If the police wish to question him he will co-operate, as he has with each and every public inquiry."

Cardinal Pell began work as a priest in Ballarat after being ordained in 1966 and was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.

In the statement issued from Cardinal Pell's office on Friday night, the church says it is "outrageous" that the "undetailed" and "utterly false" allegations were brought to the Cardinal's attention via media leaks.

It calls for those who leaked confidential information to face a public inquiry for trying to "do maximum damage to the Cardinal and the Catholic Church and undermine the work of the Royal Commission".

The church statement refers to "Phillip Island allegations" which have been on the public record for nearly 15 years.

Cardinal Pell has denied all claims of sexual abuse. Photo: Yahoo7

Cardinal Pell was cleared of allegations he molested a boy at a summer camp on Phillip Island in 1961.

"The Southwell Report which exonerated Cardinal Pell has been in the public domain since 2002," the statement reads.

"The Victorian police have taken no steps in all of that time to pursue the false allegations made ... [and] have never sought to interview him in relation to any allegations of child sexual abuse."

Former Victorian Supreme Court judge Alex Southwell said there was considerable doubt about the validity of the allegations against Cardinal Pell.

Victoria Police say they are investigating a number of historical sexual abuse accusations and are looking at evidence given to the Royal Commission.

They have told Yahoo7 News they are aware of the report but "cannot comment on any cases in which an individual has been named".

They have assigned a team named the 'Sano taskforce' to investigate the allegations.

Numerous alleged victims are reportedly working with detectives during a year-long investigation.

Ballarat clergy abuse victims hope they can watch the Cardinal as he gives testimony from Rome.

He has offered to "meet with and listen to victims and express his ongoing support" after giving evidence at the child abuse Royal Commission via videolink.

David Ridsdale, a member of the Ballarat Child Abuse Survivors group that wants to go to Rome to hear the evidence, said a meeting with the cardinal would be pleasant.

But he said he knew no survivor who had labelled any dealing with Cardinal Pell or the Church-instigated Melbourne Response "a positive experience".

Cardinal Pell has been reportedly too ill to return to Australia to give evidence at the Royal Commission. Photo: Yahoo7

"I've yet to meet one," Mr Ridsdale told AAP on Thursday.

"So that sounds to me like Cardinal Pell is blowing his own trumpet ... He chooses to ignore the fact people keep saying the (Church's) responses were inadequate."

The commission has agreed to allow Cardinal Pell to give evidence from Rome on health grounds but is seeking a suitable venue.

If one is found, a crowdfunding campaign, which has so far raised more than $180,000, will pay for a group of 15 to attend the cardinal's testimony, due to begin February 29.

He will instead give a testimony via videolink from Rome. Photo: Yahoo7

The cardinal's office said he was "anxious to present the facts without further delays".

Three days have been set aside for Cardinal Pell's third royal commission appearance, in which he will be questioned about child abuse in the Ballarat diocese and Melbourne archdiocese.

The Cardinal's full statement:

LEAKED ALLEGATIONS SPURIOUS AND FALSE – CARDINAL GEORGE PELL

Cardinal Pell is due to give evidence to the Royal Commission in just over one week.

The timing of these leaks is clearly designed to do maximum damage to the Cardinal and the Catholic Church and undermines the work of the Royal Commission.

The allegations are without foundation and utterly false.

It is outrageous that these allegations have been brought to the Cardinal's attention through a media leak. These undetailed allegations have not been raised with the Cardinal by the police and the false claims investigated by Justice

Southwell have been ignored by the police for over 15 years, despite the very transparent way they were dealt with by the Cardinal and the Catholic Church.

The Cardinal has called for a public inquiry into the leaking of these spurious claims by elements in the Victorian Police in a manner clearly designed to embarrass the Cardinal, in a case study where the historical failures of the

Victorian Police have been the subject of substantial evidence. These types of unfair attacks diminish the work of those good officers of the police who are diligently working to bring justice to victims. The Phillip Island allegations have been on the public record for nearly 15 years. The Southwell Report which exonerated Cardinal Pell has been in the public domain since 2002.

The Victorian police have taken no steps in all of that time to pursue the false allegations made, however the Cardinal certainly has no objection to them reviewing the materials that led Justice Southwell to exonerate him.

The Cardinal is certain that the police will quickly reach the conclusion that the allegations are false.

The Victorian Police have never sought to interview him in relation to any allegations of child sexual abuse and apart from the false allegations investigated by Justice Southwell, the Cardinal knows of no claims or incidents which relate to him.

He strongly denies any wrongdoing. If the police wish to question him he will co-operate, as he has with each and every public inquiry.

In the meantime, the Cardinal understands that several media outlets have received confidential information leaked by someone within the Victorian Police.

For elements of the police to publicly attack a witness in the same case study that has exposed serious police inaction and wrongdoing is outrageous and should be seen for what it is.

Given the serious nature of this conduct, the Cardinal has called for a public inquiry to be conducted in relation to the actions of those elements of the Victorian Police who are undermining the Royal Commission's work.

The Cardinal calls on the Premier and the Police Minister to immediately investigate the leaking of these baseless allegations.