Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has denied allegations of a cover-up involving clerical sexual abuse, saying he did not intentionally mislead a man who complained of a priest’s sexual abuse. It is reported that the cardinal erroneously told the man there were no other complaints against the priest.
The allegations concern the cardinal’s response to the case of Father Terence Goodall, who was convicted in 2006 of indecently assaulting Anthony Jones in 1982.
In 2003, Reuters reports, Cardinal Pell wrote a letter to Jones saying his abuse claim was rejected, stating “as no other complaint of attempted sexual assault has been received against Father Goodall and he categorically denies the allegation ... the complaint of attempted aggravated sexual assault cannot be considered to have been substantiated."
The Australian television program “Lateline” reported that Cardinal Pell wrote another letter on the same day to a different man, who was abused as an altar boy, saying his claim of sexual abuse by the same priest was upheld.
Jones appeared on “Lateline” on Monday night, claiming “Cardinal Pell misrepresented the truth. It destroyed my faith.”
"He had to know that there was other complaints because he wrote to the man who as an 11-year-old boy was assaulted by Father Goodall on the same day," said Jones. "I now hate Catholicism because of what Cardinal Pell has done to me, more so than what Father Goodall did to me."
Cardinal Pell apologized in a Tuesday statement in which he insisted “there was no attempt at a cover-up.”
"I apologize for the confusion caused to Mr. Jones," he said. "The letter to Mr. Jones was badly worded and a mistake -- an attempt to inform him there was no other allegation of rape."
Cardinal Pell claimed Jones’ case was unusual because Jones was 29 at the time of the abuse and not a minor.
The cardinal said he had followed the 2003 recommendations of layman Howard Murray’s internal report on abuse allegations and had requested an assessment of Father Goodall’s suitability for continued priestly service. “This was done and he was then stood down from priestly activity,” Cardinal Pell wrote.
He explained the report held that both complainants’ allegations had been sustained and also recommended offering “remedial assistance.”
In his “badly-worded” letter to Jones, the cardinal said, he was “attempting to inform him that there was no other allegation of rape and I overstated my agreement with Murray, who found all allegations sustained. I accepted all these findings, including the homosexual misbehavior; but (I repeat) found evidence for rape insufficient.”
Cardinal Pell said the case was unusual because the criminal courts took it up after Jones was dissatisfied with Church findings, but noted the court too did not charge Father Goodall with rape.
“Goodall was convicted in court under the laws in vogue in 1982 which are now changed,” Pell wrote. “There was never any allegation by prosecutors of rape. Goodall was sentenced until the rising of the Court and the Judge remarked publicly that his conviction would be unlikely under today’s law.”
“This case demonstrates how difficult it is to do justice to all parties,” the cardinal said, also noting he no longer relied only on “in house advisers on legal matters.”
“My offer to provide help to Mr. Jones is still on the table,” he said.
Groups of victims of clerical sexual abuse have been active in the lead-up to World Youth Day, planning protests and other events.