CARDINAL George Pell’s spokeswoman has replied to a victim’s mother three years after she wrote and just before he gives evidence today at the Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled sex abuse.
The victims said the timing was insulting and the charm offensive merely offensive after Sydney Archdiocese communications director Katrina Lee told the mother that the cardinal believed that helping victims and treating them with compassion and respect must be the church’s first priority.
Ms Lee told Ballarat mother Clare Linane that she was looking at previous correspondence in the light of the Victorian inquiry, and offered to help Mrs Linane’s son report the abuse to police if he had not done so.
The son, Ballarat survivor and victims’ advocate Peter Blenkiron, asked: “Do they think we are idiots? Do they think the community are stupid?’’
Mrs Linane said she felt cynical about the letter, and that Cardinal Pell’s demeanour did not match his words.
“He doesn’t act like a man of God,’’ she said.
She wrote to Ms Lee after a Herald Sun article in April 2010 about allegations that the church paid hush money to shield top clerics. In the article, Ms Lee refused to answer questions “because people involved were unavailable’’, and accused the paper of running an inquisition.
Mrs Linane told Ms Lee that Mr Blenkiron had twice travelled to Melbourne for scheduled County Court hearings, only to have the church cancel, leaving the family with bills of thousands of dollars for barristers.
"He doesn't act like a man of God."
“Sometimes I wonder if those in charge of these ‘cancellations’ think that if they drag things out long enough another suicide will occur and they will be off the hook,’’ she said.
When Ms Lee replied three years later, on May 9, she praised the cardinal with whom she had worked for years. “He has said many times that helping victims and ensuring they are heard, believed and treated with compassion and respect must be the church’s first priority.’’
Mrs Linane replied to Ms Lee, saying she simply could not believe her description of the cardinal.
Ms Lee told Fairfax Media: “This was a personal letter sent of my own accord, not on behalf of anyone else, and responding to a very concerned and loving mother and grandmother who has obviously suffered herself.’’
She did not say whether she or the cardinal had written to anyone else.