Cardinal Pell blasts ‘trial by media’ after latest allegations

Cardinal Pell in Rome last year after Royal commission hearings

Cardinal Pell in Rome last year after Royal commission hearings

UPDATE

Ballarat’s Cardinal George Pell has hit back at media outlets which have aired allegations against him prior to the release of a new book.

The new claims of sexual abuse against Cardinal Pell during his time as Melbourne’s Archbishop in the 1990’s have been made in a soon-to-be released book by ABC journalist Louise Milligan.

The excerpts published in Fairfax newspapers on Saturday, will maximise publicity for the book, to be released next week, but Cardinal Pell’s office has accused the outlets and publisher Melbourne University Publishing of interfering in the proper course of justice.

The statement issued late on Saturday, said the Cardinal would not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations other than to restate “any allegations of child abuse made against him were completely false”.

His office said there had been no further updates from the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria Police in regard to investigations over incidents alleged to have occurred at Eureka Pool in 1970’s and which have been underway since at least February 2016.

Police confirmed earlier this year that a brief of evidence against Cardinal Pell had been returned to the Office of Public Prosecutions for consideration over the Eureka Pool allegations but no charges have been laid.

In October last year, three members of Victoria Police flew to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell, who took part voluntarily.

Cardinal Pell has always vehemently denied the accusations and said he stood by all the evidence he has given to multiple hearings of the the Royal Commission. 

Neither the Eureka pool claims nor the latest allegations from Melbourne have been raised in the Royal Commission. 

Lawyers for Cardinal Pell last night strongly denied the allegations and said they were false, "unjustifiable, scandalous, deliberate and calculated to cause the most shocking damage imaginable to Cardinal Pell".

The legal letter also claimed the publication of the book's allegations were a "deliberate attempt to influence the public opinion in a manner that would make it impossible for our client to receive a fair hearing in court should he be charged".

The latest claims come from the MUP book about Cardinal Pell which contains detailed claims that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the late 1990s.

The alleged abuse is said to have occurred after the introduction of the Melbourne Response, the compensation scheme for clerical sexual abuse victims established in 1996 by Cardinal Pell, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.  

It is written by ABC journalist Louise Milligan, who revealed historic sex abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell in a 2016 report for the 7.30 program.

Police confirmed earlier this year that a brief of evidence against Cardinal Pell had been returned to the Office of Public Prosecutions for consideration over the Eureka Pool allegations.

In October last year, three members of Victoria Police flew to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell, who took part voluntarily.

There is no suggestion Cardinal Pell is guilty of any allegations of child sex abuse, only that they have been investigated by police.

The boys in the latest claims, who were both students at St Kevin's College in Toorak and sung in the choir at St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne, were allegedly abused in a back room of the church.

Soon after the alleged abuse took place, both boys asked to leave the choir, according to the book.

Milligan's book, released next week, details the testimony of one alleged victim, a man now aged in his 30s, and the family of a second alleged victim, who died from a drug overdose in 2014.  

According to the book, the mother of the second alleged victim suspected her son had been sexually abused and asked him at least twice before his death. He told her he had not been.

But after he died she asked her son's friend, the first alleged victim.

"I asked him if my son was a victim and he said, 'Yes'." The mother was told by the friend that Cardinal Pell allegedly abused both boys.

Milligan writes that the first man reported the allegations to Victoria Police's SANO Taskforce and the mother of the deceased man also gave a statement to investigators.

In 2015, SANO Taskforce detectives put out a rare public statement appealing for information about allegations of historic sexual abuse against 14-year-old boys at St Patrick's Cathedral between 1996 and 2001.

Fairfax Media reported at the time that investigators were understood to have executed search warrants on buildings linked to the cathedral, including in East Melbourne and Toorak.

SANO was set up to investigate allegations that emerged from the 2013 Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse involving religious and non-government organisations and also investigates allegations of abuse arising from the  Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.