News George Pell George Pell’s position is ‘untenable’: Pope advisor
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George Pell’s position is ‘untenable’: Pope advisor

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One of Pope Francis’ closest advisers says Cardinal George Pell’s position is “untenable” and he should be “moved aside and sent back to Australia”.

Peter Saunders was hand-picked by Pope Francis six months ago to be the Catholic Church’s commissioner for the protection of children and says Cardinal Pell’s handling of child sex abuse victims has displayed “callousness” and “cold-heartedness”. 

Mr Saunders told 60 Minutes on Sunday night: “I think it’s critical that George Pell is moved aside, that he is sent back to Australia, and that the Pope takes the strongest action against him.

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“He (Pell) is making a mockery of the Papal Commission, of the Pope himself … but most of all, of the victims and the survivors.” 

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Will Pope Francis force Cardinal Pell back to Australia? Photo: Getty

He said Cardinal Pell should be summoned to the Royal Commission into the institutional responses to child sex abuse in Ballarat and that he should face criminal charges.

Mr Saunders, who himself was sexually abused as a child, believes Cardinal Pell’s handling of sex abuse victims has been “absolutely outrageous” and his responses over the years “demonstrate the callousness, cold-heartedness and contempt Pell appears to display for this whole issue and the victims of these crimes”.

Pope Francis established the commission headed by Mr Saunders by declaring that one priest abusing a minor was enough reason to move on changing the church’s structure and attitude to sex abuse.

Since then, Mr Saunders and fellow commissioners have been fighting for survivors of institutional abuse around the world, including Australia.

“I have heard from people who have suffered directly,” he said. “I think he is somebody who understandably victims and survivors will have a huge huge issue with.

“I would go as far to say that I consider him (Pell) to be a dangerous individual.”

“I am interested in supporting survivors and protecting children and people who have covered up and denied and have their stories mixed up to do with child abuse represent to me a danger to the whole process of child protection.”

Over the past two weeks the Royal Commission in Ballarat has heard evidence against Australia’s worst paedophile priest, Father Gerald Ridsdale.

Witnesses have spoken to the commission about their view that Cardinal Pell ignored warnings surrounding Ridsdale, while one claimed he was offered a bribe for his silence, an allegation Cardinal Pell has previously denied.

It has also been alleged Cardinal Pell knew of Ridsdale’s crimes as he was at a meeting where it was discussed that Ridsdale had to be moved to another parish – one of nine times he was relocated.

Cardinal Pell later publicly accompanied Ridsdale into court when he faced an earlier abuse charge and has admitted that choice was “offensive”.

“Anybody who is a serious obstacle to the work of the Commission and to the work of the Pope in trying to clean up the Church’s act over this matter,” Mr Saunders said.

“They need to be taken aside very, very quickly and removed from any kind of position of influence.

“Our direction cannot include cover-ups and allowing children to be abused”

As the head of Vatican finances, Cardinal Pell holds a powerful position in the church and has said he would only face the royal commission if he was forced to.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Cardinal Pell released a statement saying he would be seeking legal advice over “false and misleading” claims made against him.

“From his earliest actions as an archbishop Cardinal Pell has taken a strong stand against child sexual abuse and put in place processes, to enable complaints to be brought forward and independently investigated,” the statement read.

“In light of all of the available material, including evidence from the Cardinal under oath, there is no excuse for broadcasting incorrect and prejudicial material.

“Cardinal Pell has never met Mr Saunders, who seems to have formed his strong opinions without ever having spoken to His Eminence.

“In the circumstances, the Cardinal is left no alternative but to consult with his legal advisers.”

– with AAP

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