A British clerical sex abuse victim chosen by Pope Francis to help root out paedophilia in the Catholic Church has been threatened with legal action by one of the pontiff’s closest advisers for suggesting he helped conceal child sex abuse in his native Australia.
London-based Peter Saunders told a television documentary that Cardinal George Pell had ignored and even denigrated clerical abuse victims as part of the Church’s widespread cover-up of paedophile activity.
Mr Saunders, who was picked by the Pope to work on the Church’s commission for the protection of children, went on to demand the Cardinal’s resignation. “I personally think that his position is untenable,” said Mr Saunders. “Because he has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness. It’s making a mockery of the commission, but above all of the victims and survivors.”
The claims were firmly denied by the Vatican, where Cardinal Pell has gained a reputation as a highly effective agent in the fight against the institution’s other ingrained problem: financial impropriety. “Cardinal Pell has always responded attentively and in detail to the questions posed by Australian authorities,” the Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. The Cardinal’s comments should be “considered reliable and worthy of respect and attention”.
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
Cardinal Pell, who has denied these allegations before, said Mr Saunders’ claims were “false and offensive”, and announced he was consulting lawyers. But Mr Saunders, who founded the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told The Independent: “The Church has a history of spending millions to protect paedophile priests and nuns.
“I’m not afraid. I will not be silenced, and if he does try to sue me I think we will see the size of the reaction. I’ve been overwhelmed with messages of support from Australian abuse victims who say that I’m giving them a voice they never had.”
But the Cardinal’s spokesman said: “From his earliest actions as an archbishop, Cardinal Pell has taken a strong stand against child sexual abuse and put in place processes to enable complaints to be brought forward and independently investigated.”
Many of the claims made against Cardinal Pell relate to the case of the jailed priest Gerald Ridsdale, with whom he shared a house in the late 1970s in the Australian town of Ballarat. Ridsdale was subsequently convicted for more than 140 sexual assaults against children as young as four over three decades until the 1980s.Reuse content