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Conscience Magazine

Pell Testifies He “Should Have Done More” about Clergy Abuse

By Catholics for Choice April 25, 2016

Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, concluded his four-day testimony before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in March. The former archbishop of Sydney has been criticized for his handling of Australia’s clergy abuse crisis. Crux reported that abuse survivor Paul Tatchell told the commission in 2015, “The buck has to stop somewhere. And in Australia, it’s George Pell.”

The high-ranking Vatican official, who is 74, chose to testify from Rome via video link, citing health concerns. ABC Australia reported that a group of about 20 survivors with family members and counselors received donations for their flight to Rome to join the 150 people watching Pell speak.

“I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” Pell said, according to the BBC. The cardinal downplayed any direct knowledge of abuse, although he admitted that he took no concerted action when he heard that Christian Brother Edward Dowlan “was misbehaving” with boys. “The boy wasn’t asking me to do something about it,” he recalled, according to America.

Judge Peter McClellan, chair of the Royal Commission, inquired, “Why was it necessary for people to ask you to do something rather than for you to accept information and initiate your own response?” According to Reuters, the cardinal stated that now, 40 years later, “I would agree that I should have done more.”

After his appearance, the cardinal met with survivors for more than two hours, according to the Guardian (US). Philip Nagle emerged from a one-on-one meeting feeling optimistic that Pell understood the need to finance ongoing counseling for “keeping our fellow survivors alive going forward. I actually think he gets that bit,” he told the Guardian.

Catholics for Choice

was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.