THE Catholic Church’s response to child sexual abuse in Ballarat will be under scrutiny again in the coming days. The child abuse inquiry will this week probe Bishop Brian Finnigan and Ballarat diocese priests Fathers John McKinnon, Brian McDermott, Lawrence O’Toole and Daniel Arundell.
Victims were left reeling following news Cardinal George Pell's appearance at the commission was postponed after his doctors deemed it was unsafe for him to make the long-haul flight from Rome to Melbourne. Cardinal Pell applied to give evidence by videolink but the request was rejected by the commission, which hoped he will return to give evidence in Ballarat in February. While survivors voiced disappointment Cardinal Pell won’t front the inquiry this week, they say pressure is mounting on other clergy leaders to divulge what they knew. Survivor Andrew Collins said Cardinal Pell’s evidence was crucial to unravelling the web of deception and concealment orchestrated by the Catholic Church but he did not want him to be a scapegoat.
“It needs to come out that it was the culture of the church during this time that covered up the abuse of kids,” Mr Collins said. “It wasn’t just one or two clergy leaders, it was all of them.” He said evidence so far showed an allegiance to the church over children’s rights. “They need to start showing an allegiance to their parishes and to people destroyed by this,” Mr Collins said. In a statement released on Sunday, a spokesperson for Cardinal Pell said claims the senior Vatican figure was refusing to attend the inquiry or face victims of sexual abuse were “false and ridiculous.” The statement said Cardinal Pell, who has previously appeared before the commission twice, is determined to give evidence to inquiries into abuse by clergy in the Ballarat diocese.