We all have our PTSD triggers. Well Cardinal George Pell is one of mine so I am delighted with the news that Victoria Police has confirmed Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons over multiple allegations and is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18 for a filing hearing.
A statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said Cardinal Pell had been informed of Victoria Police’s “decision and action”.
“Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors who will also advise on his travel arrangements.
“He said he is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously. Cardinal George Pell is taking leave of his Vatican duties after informing the Pope he plans to return to Australia to fight historical sexual assault charges in court and clear his name.
Pell said he had been the victim of “relentless character assassination” and the charges “strengthened his resolve” to clear his name.
Here’s what George Pell had to say
The Catholic cardinal strenuously denies all sexual assault allegations against him
He said he wanted to return to Australia for his “day in court”, after being granted leave by Pope Francis.
“I’m looking forward, finally, to having my day in court,” he said.
“I’m innocent of those charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.
“There have been leaks to the media. There has been relentless character assassination.”
In a press conference from the Vatican, Pell said he had spoken to Pope Francis about the case and had been granted leave.
“I’ve kept Pope Francis, the Holy Father, regularly informed during these long months,” he said.
“I have spoken to him on a number of occasions in the last week. We talked about my need to take leave to clear my name.
“So I’m grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia.”The investigation and charging of Cardinal George Pell has made headlines around the world because of his standing at the Vatican.
But the scrutiny of his career in Australia is more intimate, based on his community leadership as assistant priest, priest, auxiliary bishop, archbishop and cardinal.
Critics have questioned his handling of complaints about other clergy over decades of church service; defenders call him a victim of smear.
All should stand down until the charges have been heard; due process — as the police and the Cardinal have both pointed out — must be respected.
What next for the Catholic Church in Australia?
This is a different question.
Cardinal George Pell has long been one of the most prominent and controversial figures in the Australian Catholic Church.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is ongoing, with its final recommendations due in December.
Efforts to deliver child safety and redress to survivors should not be ignored amid anticipation or unjust speculation about the case against Pell.
Common Law cases arising from evidence given to the royal commission are starting to mount against the Church; legal defences issued in the past month share eerie similarities with the stonewalling of the 1990s.
States, territories and the Commonwealth are also facing legal claims for compensation.
A national redress scheme is being organised by the Federal Government but is far from finalised.
Changes to child protection policies are taking place across the nation but some practices and institutional structures need improvement.
We’re in uncharted territory now
Now Victoria Police are charging Cardinal Archbishop George Pell with multiple sexual offences we are in an unprecedented historical position, writes Noel Debien.
The Catholic Church has its ancient traditions to overcome.
For instance, all serving archbishops told the royal commission they would not report to police a colleague who admitted in the confessional to child rape.
Royal commissioner Justice Peter McClellan warned recently: “The community will not accept the legitimacy of any institution which does not give priority to the safety and wellbeing of the children for which it has responsibility.”
On last count, fewer than 130 of 2,025 cases referred to police by the royal commission have been acted upon.
Victoria Police has declared Pell will be treated like anyone else under “common and standard practice”; all cases should be handled in this way so fairness and justice can be delivered as soon as possible.