Vatican’s top financial official, Cardinal George Pell has vehemently rejected allegations thrown against him over sexual abuse of minors.
Cardinal Pell, whom the Pontiff placed in charge of the Vatican’s finances last year and currently the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, a post he has held since 2014 is accused of multiple offenses of child sex abuse which he has strongly denied, he has also been long accused of shielding predatory priests in Australia.
According to a statement from Cardinal Pell’s Rome’s office released on Feb.19, “The allegations are without foundation and utterly false.”
The timing of the media leak on the alleged investigation “is clearly designed to do maximum damage to the Cardinal and the Catholic Church and undermines the work of the Royal Commission,” it said.
The Catholic clergyman is scheduled to testify before Australia’s Royal Commission on Feb. 29 on several counts of offenses including ignoring a victim’s complaint.
In a May 20, 2015, statement, Cardinal Pell fervently denied the accusations. Having previously testified twice before the royal commission in person examining institutional responses to child sex abuse, the cardinal again assured his full cooperation.
However, with just a week ahead of his scheduled appearance in the court, a new investigation came up allegedly accusing 74-year-old Pell of committing ‘multiple offenses’ of child abuse between 1978 and 2001, a time when he was still a priest at Ballarat, and Archbishop of Melbourne.
Detectives have reportedly been working on the investigation, which has involved interviewing ‘numerous’ alleged victims, over the past year.
In the statement released by Cardinal Pell’s office it said that not only do the accusations of the investigation lack foundation, but that it was “outrageous” that the cardinal was only informed of them through a “media leak.”
The fact that the Victoria Police force had been investigating the allegations for over a year and the Cardinal not getting a wind of this until the leaked media reports is indeed disturbing .
Several media outlets have received confidential information that can only have been leaked by someone within the Victorian police force, the statement read.
The way in which the claims were made, the statement said, was done “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.”
The statement also stressed that in all of this time the Victoria police “have never sought” to interview Cardinal Pell in relation to any allegations of abuse. Apart from the “false allegations” investigated by Justice Southwell, it read, “the Cardinal knows of no claims or incidents which relate to him.”
“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 statement added.
Longtime friend, Archbishop Hart coming to the defense of his friend, condemned the allegations in a statement issued on Saturday and said; the allegations did not reflect “the man I have known for more than 50 years”. It is very concerning to read reports based on leaks to the media that Victoria Police has been investigating allegations of abuse against Cardinal George Pell for the past year and that his first knowledge of these allegations has come from those media reports.”
In his statement, Cardinal Pell stated emphatically his innocence, he denied any wrongdoing. But, the statement read, “that he remains open to cooperate with the police should they wish to speak with him.”