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Pell stands firm as media frenzy continues

Controversy over sex abuse in the Catholic Church has intensified with Sydney Archbishop George Pell denying he offered victims hush money.

Dr Pell said he had made a critical mistake about the Church's compensation scheme when he told 60 Minutes on Sunday night that "there is a requirement that they don't talk about it".

At a packed press conference at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney yesterday he said there was no such confidentiality clause and anyone who accepted a compensation payment was free to disclose the details if they wished.

Dr Pell said the mistake was a result of being ambushed by the current affairs program.

Program executive producer John Westacott said yesterday that Dr Pell would reappear on 60 Minutes to discuss the issue.

Dr Pell rejected calls for his resignation. He said he had nothing to hide.

He also distanced himself from paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, denying they had been close friends.

But he conceded he was wrong to accompany Ridsdale to court in 1993. He said he did so in "priestly solidarity" under pressure from the priest's friends and supporters.

"My sympathy was always with the victims and when I explained to his lawyer that I would insist on saying that Ridsdale had done great damage to his victims, his Church and himself, he declined to call me as a witness," he said.

"I had little idea then as to the extent of his evil."

Dr Pell continued to reject the claims of Ridsdale's nephew and victim David Ridsdale, who said Dr Pell asked in a 1993 phone call "what will it take" to buy his silence.

"I have no doubt David Ridsdale has suffered terribly because of his experiences but his allegations about me are wrong," Dr Pell said.

Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart defended the compensation system set up under Dr Pell in 1996.

A statement from Archbishop George Pell
Sydney cleric offered bribes say abuse victims (NZ Herald)
Pell to reappear on 60 Minutes (AAP)
Archbishop tried to buy silence about abuse (Cape Times)
Head of Australia Church Won't Resign (AP)
Church head denies hush money claims (CNN)
Hush money claims untrue: Pell (AAP)
Pell should resign: abuse lawyer (AAP)
Pell: no 'hush money' (The Australian)
Pell blames 'TV ambush' for error (Daily Telegraph)
Bishop admits abuse money offer (BBC)
Pell 'knew of cover-up allegations' (SMH)
Money talks: when hush comes to shove (SMH)
Pell allegations lack evidence (SMH)
The church has sinned but let's not crucify Pell (SMH Letters)
Pell 'knew' of cover-up claims as early as 1997 (The Age)
When the prelate plays judge, jury and paymaster (The Age)
Archbishop Pell in Strong Rebuttal of Cover-Up Charges (CWN)

The West Australian

4 Jun 2002