Criticisms of Australian Cardinal George Pell by a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors do not reflect the role or views of the commission, a Vatican spokesman has said.
The commission “does not have the task of investigating and pronouncing judgment on individual cases,” according to Father Federico Lombardi, responding to recent comments from Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and head of the London-based charity National Association of People Abused in Childhood. He added that the cardinal’s response “must be considered reliable and deserving of respect and attention.”
Asked on Australia’s Channel Nine about Cardinal Pell’s handling of abusive priests, Mr Saunders described the cardinal as a “serious obstacle” to the Pope’s child protection policies, saying: “I personally think his position is untenable, because he has now a catalogue of denials, he has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold heartedness, almost sociopathic I would go so far as to say, this lack of care.”
He specifically claimed then-Fr George Pell was present at a 1982 meeting when a decision was taken to move an abusive priest, Fr Gerald Ridsdale, subsequently found to have been a serial paedophile, to another parish, and that in 1993 then Bishop Pell attempted to buy the silence of David Ridsdale, a nephew and victim of Fr Ridsdale.
A spokesman for the cardinal has pointed out that these issues were addressed at a 2013 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, which did not find against the cardinal, and insisted that the cardinal “has never condoned or protected offenders, has never condoned or participated in moving known offenders and did not at any time attempt to bribe David Ridsdale, whose story has varied many times over the years.”
In a recent statement the cardinal said he remains “extremely sympathetic” to Mr Ridsdale, but maintained that when he allegedly attempted to bribe Mr Ridsdale, something he denies, the police were already investigating, with his support, Mr Ridsdale’s allegations against his uncle.
The cardinal’s spokesman described as “outrageous” the “false and misleading claims” in the “60 Minutes” programme, which have left Cardinal Pell with “no alternative but to consult with his legal advisers.”