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Sex abuse rampant at YCW camp, say altar boys

Three more former altar boys claim to have been sexually abused at summer camps held in the 1960s at the site where the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Dr George Pell, is alleged to have assaulted a 12-year-old boy.

They say they were abused by a priest - not Dr Pell - and a church lay person at the YCW holiday camp at Smith's Beach on Victoria's Phillip Island.

The three gave details of assaults by both men at the camp and also at their Catholic school in Melbourne. One estimated that 20 boys from the school had been assaulted by the two men.

The claims emerged as a meeting of senior Catholic priests appointed the Irish-born Bishop David Cremin to replace Dr Pell, who has stepped aside while the allegation against him is investigated.

Bishop Cremin, 72, is the senior vicar-general and auxiliary bishop of Sydney. Six years ago he apologised on behalf of the Christian Brothers for any harm inflicted on children in the order's care.

Dr Pell, who has strenuously denied the allegation that as a trainee priest he sexually assaulted the boy 41 years ago, made no further comment yesterday.

He is understood to have remained at his St Mary's Cathedral residence, consulting advisers on how to respond to the independent church inquiry.

A volunteer at the YCW holiday camp in the early 1960s recalled Dr Pell, saying: "George Pell, I remember him very, very well," the man said. "I drove him and the boys down there. He was a model person - I am absolutely astounded by what's been said about him."

In other developments:

 The federal Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, accused the Prime Minister, John Howard, of prejudging the case by saying he believed Dr Pell was innocent.

 Senior Catholic figures conceded that the latest furore had further damaged the church's credibility.

 The church was criticised for leaking details of the alleged victim's criminal history in a bid to discredit him.

 Observers in Rome said the affair could damage Dr Pell's chances of becoming a cardinal.


Prominent Sydney solicitor and attorney Geoff Cahill has challenged the Church to report the Pell allegations to the Police. He says that while it is normally the role of the complainant to report such matters to the police, the allegations are a "matter of national importance", and as such the Catholic Church should inform the police.

Mr Cahill said that Archbishop Pell's exoneration depends upon the referral of the matter to the police.

"The Church's internal inquiry will not accomplish it," he said. "Any findings can only leave doubt and uncertainty. It will be a stalemate."

He pointed out that the Church enquiry chooses its own adjudicator, "who is unable to compel any witnesses to appear or subpoena any documents or even ensure proper cross-examination to reasonably determine guilt or innocence."

Referring to statements made by church officials including Monsignor David Cappo on Tuesday's 7.30 Report on ABC Television, he said "it is incorrect to say that only the complainant can take this action".

"Given the national importance, the police should be called in to investigate," he stressed. "It is only in this way that the community will fully accept the result."

SMH/Geoff Cahill

Bishop Cremin to assist in running the Archdiocese of Sydney (Catholic Communications Sydney media release)
Embattled Pell deluged with support (The Advertiser)
The right, proper and only response (The Advertiser)
Archbishop's accuser 'vilified' by Catholics (The Australian)
Church defends Pell inquiry delay (Courier-Mail)
Pell inquiry to move quickly (Herald-Sun)
Sex abuse rampant at Catholic camp, say altar boys (SMH)
Church hurting me when I want healing: accuser (SMH)
Straight shooter to hear complaints (SMH)
Howard's prompt defence attacked (SMH)
Black cloud over Australia's cardinal chances (SMH)
Church moves out of the shadows (SMH)
The ordeal of Pell and his church (SMH)
Archbishop isn't required to prove his innocence (SMH)
New sex claims rock the church (The Age)
Altar boys tell of sex abuse at camp (The Age)
I want healing not revenge, says the accuser (The Age)
Inquiry head no stranger to accusations against clergy (The Age)
Rome at top of canon law (The Age)
Latham attacks church 'lecturing' (The Age)
PM 'jumped gun' over Pell: Oppn (The Australian)
Second claim of sex abuse (The Australian)
Pell accuser 'vilified' (The Australian)
Church wants swift justice (AAP)
Australian archbishop implicated in sex case (Boston Herald-AP)
Australian PM defends cleric Pell (Miami Herald-AP)
Fresh sex scandal rocks Catholics (CNN)
Australia's turbulent priest (CNN)
Perth Archbishop backs Pell (AAP)
Sydney archbishop faces sex abuse inquiry (The Guardian)
Sex case cleric steps down (The Scotsman)
Pell denies molesting boy (The Australian)
Crean commends Pell action (AAP)
Archbishop steps down after abuse accusation (International Herald Tribune)
Sydney archbishop accused of sex abuse (ABC Radio AM) | audio
Politicians react to allegations againt George Pell (ABC Radio The World Today) | audio
Terry O'Gorman says Dr Pell should not have stood down (ABC Radio The World Today) | audio
Dr Pell receives support from all quarters (ABC Radio PM) | audio
Prayers for Archbishop Pell (ABC Radio PM) | audio
Australian Archbishop Steps Down as Sexual Abuse Inquiry Opens (New York Times-AFP)
Australia: Archbishop accused of abuse stands down (Independent Catholic News)
Australian leaders back archbishop (BBC)

22 Aug 2002