Catholic Weekly 'source' answers Pell abuse enquiry critic
The Church would much have preferred a police inquiry into the allegations against Archbishop George Pell rather than conduct an inquiry itself, according to a response from an anonymous Church source to criticisms of against to enquiry into allegations of sex abuse levelled against Sydney Archbishop George Pell.
The source said Dr Pell's accuser had declined to "take the matter to the police", says a source within the Catholic Church, even though he "was offered every opportunity and support" to do so. "That was as far as we could take it," said the source, who does not want to be named for fear of being seen to be putting pressure on the enquiry process.
The source rejected the claim by a Sydney lawyer, Geoff Cahill, that the Church enquiry - to be conducted by an independent, non-Catholic, retired judge - is "nothing more than a lame duck interview".
The lawyer, one of the first solicitors to file a statement of claim in the NSW Supreme Court against a Catholic religious institution on the grounds of sexual abuse, claimed that the Church "has clothed this internal Church enquiry with the trappings of a royal commission but (it) lacks the power to compel witnesses to attend, subpoena documents and the competence to determine guilt or innocence".
"It is standard practice for enquiries outside the legal system," the source said. "It is precisely because these inquiries are not royal commissions - and thus don't have legal privilege - that they must be held in camera."
"What would be more intimidating for a witness, and likely to inhibit the gathering of evidence, than the knowledge that the witness could be sued for defamation for saying what they believe to be true? "A number of people and organisations, including the Anglican Church, have called for a royal commission into child sex abuse. State and federal governments have declined to set one up.
"In these cases, the Churches can only hold the fairest and most independent inquiries they can," said the source. "They have no other option."
Terms of Reference - The Pell Enquiry (comment from Catholic lawyer Geoff Cahill)
Church defends abuse investigation process (29/8/02)
Terms of reference released for Pell Inquiry (ACBC)
5 Sep 2002