Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

November 19, 2012

SYDNEY – An Australian royal commission into the sexual abuse of children, which will include investigations into Catholics, is an opportunity "to separate fact from fiction," said Sydney Cardinal George Pell.

Pell addressed media Nov. 13 on the "enormously important topic and very painful topic."

The cardinal and other Church leaders "are not interested in denying the extent of misdoing in the Catholic Church" and will cooperate fully with the royal commission, he said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the royal commission into institutional responsibility regarding child sexual abuse after repeated calls for an inquiry from politicians and victims groups.

In early November, a senior police officer alleged that the Catholic Church had covered up evidence involving clergy sex abuse.

Pell said the Church acknowledged "with shame the extent of the problem," and added, "I want to assure you that we have been serious in attempting to eradicate it and deal with it."

But he objected to allegations being "exaggerated" and the Catholic Church being singled out.

"One of the good things about this royal commission is that it doesn't focus exclusively on us," he said. "I don't think we should be scapegoated.

"We'll answer for what we've done. We're not trying to defend the indefensible," he added.

The cardinal, who expected to be questioned at the royal commission, said he hoped the inquiry would bring victims "some peace, that they will feel that justice has been done."

Pell said he would welcome a review of Church protocols and guidelines. "We're quite open to introducing further improvements."

When asked about the responsibility of priests to report abuse they hear in Confession, Pell said: "The seal of Confession is inviolable," but he said priests can refuse to hear such Confessions.

"If the priest knows beforehand about such a situation, the priest should refuse to hear the Confession," he said. "I would never hear the Confession of a priest who was suspected of such a thing."