+ Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
11 Nov 2012
Church officials will co-operate fully with the Special Commission of Inquiry into the handling of sex abuse in the Hunter. Such a Commission has enormous powers, very similar to those of a royal commission.
Bishop Bill Wright of Newcastle diocese is on record as supporting this inquiry. I support it also. It is a measured and justified response.
My advice as Archbishop to Catholic priests and people is the same as it always has been during my time as Archbishop. Comply with the law; tell complainants to go to the police. In NSW allegations of child sex abuse have to be reported; an obligation since the early 1990s.
Much of the public discussion is about how the Church dealt with cases 20 or so years ago. Critics talk as though earlier inadequacies are still prevalent. Major procedural changes in dealing with these matters have been implemented since 1996.
If there is evidence of deliberately concealing abuse in any cases, police should be informed, the evidence examined and prosecutions laid if required. It is unjust and inappropriate for officials or politicians to be suggesting that crimes are being - or have been - committed, without producing evidence; without asking those accused for their responses before making generalised slurs.
If there is evidence of specific malpractice, this should be referred to the police. It is unacceptable, because it is untrue, to claim that the Catholic Church does not have proper procedures, and to claim that Catholic authorities refuse to cooperate with the police.
It is ludicrous to suggest I was involved in some cover-up in the Hunter region. I am not Bishop of the area and have only visited there a few times. I have never approached any politician or police official to speak of problems there, much less have I intervened to thwart justice.
Although the Church started from well behind scratch, it is hard to name any other Australian organisation that has done more to produce a safe environment for young people.
And I point out again (as I did in this column some time ago) that it is foolish and mistaken to assume these problems are confined to the churches or even simply to NGOs.
A final word on the troubles at St John's college, which reflect declining standards of behaviour across society - much needs to be done and we are heading in the right direction.
However, student leadership is needed to eject and ostracise those few who are intimidating and harassing students who want reform.
Such intimidation is totally unacceptable.