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Church responds to more abuse claims

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, has been forced to respond to another sex abuse claim after an alleged victim accused the Melbourne archdiocese of having "covered up" a scandal involving a church worker and a priest.

The worker, who was jailed on 29 charges of indecent assault and buggery, is alleged by former altar boys to have been a serial abuser at Fawkner North parish, where he worked in the 1960s. He is also alleged to have abused boys at the Smith's Beach camp on Phillip Island, where Dr Pell is alleged to have abused a 12-year-old boy.

Dr Pell, who has branded the abuse allegations against him as "lies" and "an evil smear of the most vindictive kind", yesterday emphatically rejected the latest claims that police had told him in 1996 or 1997 of the abuse by the church worker.

One alleged victim claims he was assaulted by the church worker and by a priest. He says a police officer told him the archdiocese had been informed of the case through Dr Pell. But Dr Pell allegedly told police the priest had died, when he was, in fact, alive, the man said. The alleged victim says that he and other former altar boys were angry that the priest had not been charged.

The Vicar-General for the Melbourne archdiocese, Monsignor Christopher Prowse, said yesterday that Dr Pell "has no knowledge of any such contact, then or since". Monsignor Prowse said the story did not ring true. He said that in 1996, when the alleged abuse claims were made, the priest was living publicly in Melbourne. His name was in church journals. "To say that he had died was ridiculous, given that he was living publicly," he said.

He added that a thorough check of church files yesterday showed no record of such allegations. He said if they existed, the church "would be more than happy to deal with it through the normal channels". Monsignor Prowse said he knew nothing about Robert Blunden. "There is nothing in our files about links with Blunden. It may not have come to our attention in those days, " he said.

In other developments:

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said expressions of support for Dr Pell, who stood aside as Archbishop while the Church investigated the sex abuse claims, had flooded in. "We've been inundated with letters, phone calls, emails and faxes - the support for the archbishop has been unanimous right across society and not just from the Catholic faithful."

Archbishop George Pell will not celebrate public mass for the extent of
his leave following allegations he molested a young boy.

The Church has set in motion an inquiry into the claims headed by former Victorian Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell, QC. Co-chair of the National Committee for Professional Standards (NCPS), Brother Michael Hill, said the terms of reference for the inquiry were still being determined. Br Hill said it was hoped they would be completed by next Tuesday. He said evidence to Mr Southwell, QC, was likely to be some weeks away.

Australian Priest Faces Allegations (Miami Herald-AP)
Letters: Why justice is impossible for Archbishop Pell (The Age)
Pell denies fresh cover-up claims (SMH)
I'm not anonymous, says abuse victim (The Australian)
Three allege sex abuse at church camp (Courier-Mail)
Questions Raised about Archbishop's Accuser (Catholic World News)
Media Statement from Mgr Christopher Prowse Vicar General, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne (Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne)

The Age/AAP

23 Aug 2002