Child abuse inquiry told cover ups hinder justice
Melissa Iaria and Anne Wright
10th October 2012
11th October 2012
AUSTRALIA'S most powerful Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, was present when a boy raped by a Christian Brother in regional Victoria described to another priest what happened, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.
The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious or Other Organisations heard Cardinal Pell was present when the grade 3 student at a Ballarat school in the 1960s described to another priest what had happened to him.
Cardinal Pell may be asked about the incident after indicating in August he would attend the inquiry if asked.
The Archdiocese of Sydney's communications office spokeswoman said it could not comment while an inquiry was under way.
Solicitor Dr Vivian Waller, who has represented hundreds of sexual assault victims alleging abuse by religious clergy, outlined the details involving Cardinal Pell in her submission to the inquiry.
In another scathing submission, police accused church leaders of persuading sex abuse victims to stay silent and tipping off offenders to destroy evidence.
And the Catholic Church has proposed it selectively reports details of allegations to police without identifying alleged victims.
Victoria Police accused the church of failing to help authorities tackling child sex crimes and called for new laws against concealing an indictable offence.
The Catholic submission called for a coronial inquiry into the number of victims of sexual abuse who have committed suicide.
It also defended the right for allegations made in the confessional to stay confidential, suggesting priests report serious allegations, but only if they held back identifying information.
"Regarding reporting to the police, the Church has found that many victims want their experiences to remain private and do not want their complaint reported," the submission reads.
Other churches such as the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne rejected mandatory reporting, opting for experienced clergy to hear the confession of offenders and withhold absolution of sins until the confessor reported to authorities.
Police claimed in their submission the Catholic Church bribed victims to keep quiet about their allegations and shifted alleged offenders to different parishes to hinder police investigations.
"It is the opinion of Victoria Police that such deliberate action should be criminalised," it stated.