Archbishop George Pell of Sydney has admitted lying to journalists who accused him of trying to ‘buy the silence’ of sexual abuse victims.
After days of denying claims made by the Australian 60 Minutes programme that he had used Church funds to stop embarrassing stories reaching the courts, the Archbishop owned up to offering the family of two victims £19,000 in exchange for a promise not to sue.
The family claimed their two girls were sexually abused for six years by a local priest beginning in 1987, when the younger girl was five years old.
The archbishop was forced to make the admission after an interviewer confronted him with a 1998 letter from his lawyers when was Archbishop for Melbourne. But he denied claims that the cash was ‘hush money’ saying that it was normal practice for out-of-court settlements to carry a ‘confidentiality clause’.
Earlier Archbishop Pell had been accused by the program of offering another victim money, a house or a car to drop allegations against one of his priests. The archbishop had angrily denied these reports saying that the charges were ‘not only unfounded but also implausible.’
The abuser, priest Gerald Ridsdale, is currently serving a jail sentence for the assaults on the victim, his nephew, David Ridsdale.
The allegations against Archbishop Pell come during a widening sexual abuse scandal in Australia. Several alleged victims of child abuse by Catholic priests and lay-leaders have recently come forward following recent cases in America and Ireland.
Archbishop asks for forgiveness
Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland used carefully chosen words in a public apology during Mass this week [9 June].
During a seven-minute homily he apologized five times for having an ‘improper relationship’ with another male.
He also wore a purple stole for penance.
Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland confessed on May 31, 2002 to having sinned in his sexual relationship with a theology student and said he had been cowardly to pay the man $450,000 in church funds. 'I apologize to all the faithful of the archdiocese I love so much, to all its people and clergy, for the scandal that has occurred because of my sinfulness,' Weakland, shown in this photo, told 400 parishioners. (Allen Fredrickson/Reuters)
When he finished the gathering of 400 rose in sustained applause as their former archbishop knelt before them.
The archbishop resigned the week before after details of the relationship were made public.