Pell in preemptive strike against 60 Minutes
Sydney's Archbishop George Pell yesterday defended himself against claims by that he tried to "buy the silence" of a sexual abuse victim by offering him money, a house or a car.
Dr Pell called a press conference to preemptively answer the allegations which will be aired on Sunday's 60 Minutes program on Channel 9. The program alleges Pell attempted to conceal the sexual abuse of a family friend at the hands of a priest by offering the victim financial assistance in return for his silence, asking him: "What will it take to keep you quiet?"
The abuser, Ballarat priest Gerald Ridsdale, is serving a jail sentence for the assaults on the victim, his nephew David Ridsdale.
"The allegation I attempted to silence a victim or cover up allegations is unfounded and untrue and is anathema to me," Archbishop Pell said at St Marys Cathedral. "I emphatically and totally deny the allegation that I made any attempt to buy David's silence.
"It was also alleged that I offered to buy David a house or a car. The allegations that I made any such attempts or offers are not only unfounded but also implausible."
He said he recalled receiving the telephone call from David Ridsdale and was aware at the time of sex abuse allegations against Gerald Ridsdale.
"I recall that when David Ridsdale rang me, he told me that he had been abused by his uncle," Archbishop Pell said. "I felt sorry for David . . . however there was no basis upon which I could have provided him with any significant financial assistance."
Archbishop Pell, who was interviewed by 60 Minutes, said he was ambushed by the program after agreeing to speak to them about a separate issue. He said staff of the program had misrepresented their real intentions in a "harmful and misleading way".
"I believe that 60 Minutes deliberately obfuscated their intentions to help them manufacture a story reliant on misrepresentation and sensationalism, rather than the truth," he said.
31 May 2002