Cardinal George Pell has held a thirty-minute press conference in Sydney to discuss the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.
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Pell said the Catholic Church would co-operate with the Royal Commission. He welcomed the inquiry and said it would “clear the air” and help to “separate fact from fiction”. Pell said the Church objected to exaggeration of the problem. He said: “We have been serious in attempts to eradicate it.” He said the church would not be scapegoated.
Pell said he hoped the inquiry will bring peace to victims but said “we must ask to what extent the victimes are helped by the furoroe” and the reopening of wounds.
The Cardinal frequently help up a document on sexual abuse prepared for the Sydney Diocese. He said it established protocols for dealing with allegations and had been in operation since the 1990s. “We’re quite open to introducing further improvements and refinements.”
Pell asserted that “the seal of confession is inviolable”. He said a priest should refuse to hear a confession if he knows beforehand that allegations have been made.
Pell said: “I don’t think we should be scapegoated… we will answer for what we have done… we are not defending the indefensible.”
Pell repeatedly talked of “smears” against the Catholic Church. He welcomed the broad-ranging scope of the Royal Commission to inquire into other private and government organisations.
A series of questions were put to Pell about specific allegations of abuse, the payment of “hush money” and the Church’s involvement in “cover-ups”. Pell rejected the suggested that there is widespread cynicism about the church. “I very much reject the general smearing… that the church has done nothing, is covering up… the is is demonstrably not the case.”
Pell said he had not spoken to the Pope about the inquiry but he had spoken to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.