The Royal Commission into child abuse this week heard testimony from employees and clergy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney that Cardinal Archbishop George Pell was "calling all the shots" in the "legal abuse" of John Ellis, despite prior statements of ignorance.
For survivors of child abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy this is not breaking news. But for many survivors, some of whom contacted New Matilda by email to talk about their experiences, the departure of Pell to Rome immediately after he gives evidence to the commission next week is a perversion of justice.
"The Ellis case study is typical of the Catholic Church’s habitual cruelty to survivors," abuse survivor and victims' advocate Nicky Davis told NM. "Unfortunately Ellis will be our only chance for the highest ranking official of the Catholic Church in Australia to be held accountable for his own actions."
Davis said that senior members of the Catholic clergy who had been implicated in child abuse scandals now lived under Rome's protection. "Survivors are convinced that once in Rome, George Pell will never return," she said.
She raises the case of Cardinal Bernard Law, accused of covering up child abuse in the US Archdiocese of Boston. He is currently in retirement in Rome after he mounted a secret escape from the US to avoid a Grand Jury summons in 2004.
The Vatican has also refused to allow the extradition of Józef Wesołowski, a Polish Archbishop and former Papal Nuncio to the Dominican Republic also recalled to Rome, who allegedly abused children in both Poland and the Dominican Republic during his overseas posting.
"Pope Francis has been lauded as an agent of change, but the immunity offered to sexual predators and those who enable them has not altered," Davis said, citing Cardinal Law's warm welcome to Rome.
"On arrival at the Vatican he was awarded prestigious and influential postings. In his first hours as Pope, Francis rushed to embrace Cardinal Law … Pell’s own recently announced prestigious and influential posting gives him the perfect excuse to never again be available to the Royal Commission."
A second survivor, Robert*, told NM he thought "Pell will flee and it appears that it is most likely that the Royal Commission will be caught flat-footed on this one."
"Pell should not be permitted to leave the country," a third survivor, Angie Boede, told NM by email. "He should have all his rights stripped from him to ensure he stays here to face trial and to take responsibility."
"The Royal Commission should demand that he be held here in Australia so that he can be held accountable," Boede added.
"[He should be] made to admit what he has done and to be forcefully made aware of the damage and the harm his actions have directly contributed to, by causing psychological and traumatic harm to survivors and victims. This led to the many suicides that we are aware of."
Davis agrees. "Pell should surrender his passport and remain in Australia, under police investigation," she said. "Especially if his evidence [to the Royal Commission]largely consists of 'I don’t recall'."
*Name changed on request.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.