THE Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has rejected an allegation that Cardinal George Pell was present when an abuse claim was made against a now jailed Christian Brother.
The rejection came as the Catholic Church denied police claims that it hides pedophile priests and talks victims out of reporting sexual abuse, saying many victims chose not to tell police.
The Victorian government’s inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations has been told Cardinal Pell was present when a grade 3 student at a Ballarat school in the 1960s described to another priest what happened to him.
But the Archdiocese of Sydney released a statement yesterday saying the claims are “irresponsible, untrue and are absolutely rejected”.
The allegation relates to a student at St Alipius Christian Brothers school in Ballarat who was raped by principal and teacher Christian Brother Robert Charles Best in 1969.
Best was last year convicted of 27 offences against 11 schoolboys including two rapes, and jailed for 14 years and nine months.
Solicitor Dr Vivian Waller told the inquiry the victim went to the St Alipius presbytery and asked to speak to George Pell but he refused.
But she said in her submission George Pell was present when the victim described to another priest what had happened to him.
The Archdiocese of Sydney said Cardinal Pell was not a priest appointed in the Diocese of Ballarat at the time alleged in Dr Waller’s submission.
“Cardinal Pell was never present when any allegations of rape were made by a victim against Brother Best.”
The Catholic Church yesterday fended off accusations by Victoria Police that sexual crime victims were too often talked out of reporting it to police, while suspected offenders were sent elsewhere. The Catholic Church of Victoria’s Father Shane Mackinlay said if police had any evidence church members were deliberately hindering their investigations, they should take legal action.
Father Mackinlay said the church knew “bad decisions” were made in the past where accused priests had been given “treatment” and a “fresh start”.
But he said the church now knew that advice was misguided, reflecting the broader situation in society at the time, and the process of dealing with allegations of sexual abuse was now very different.
The police submission says there was an underlying culture within the Catholic Church, and other religions, to hide accusations of abuse.
It says such deliberate actions by the church should be criminalised.