Pell comes under fire from sex abuse groups
By Kelly Burke, Religious Affairs Writer
July 29 2002
Sydney's Catholic Archbishop, the Most Rev George Pell, has attracted international criticism and come under strident attack from local sex abuse victims' support groups, after his apparent assertion at the World Youth Day that abortion was a greater crime than pedophilia perpetrated by priests.
"Ghastly, insensitive and appalling," is how child protection advocate Hetty Johnston last night described Dr Pell's comments, delivered to 500 young Catholics at the Pope's
international youth gathering in Toronto.
According to Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, Dr Pell told his audience of World Youth Day delegates that "abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people", during a public religious instruction session last week. The statement allegedly came in response to a question from a Kentucky youth minister, Greg Rickert, who had asked Dr Pell what Catholics should say when asked about the sex abuse crisis in the US Catholic church.
The newspaper reported that Mr Rickert sought clarification from Dr Pell over his statement, to which the archbishop replied: "Because [abortion] is always a destruction of human life."
Dr Pell then insisted his comments were not designed to downplay sexual abuse; he was merely trying to point out that sex abuse by Catholic clergy had attracted attention to the detriment of other issues.
Dr Pell's comments prompted the Mail's religion and ethics reporter, Michael Valpy, to quote the archbishop's critics, who have dubbed him "the Pell Pot of Australian Catholicism".
Dr Pell could not be contacted by the Herald yesterday.
The Melbourne-based victims' support group, Broken Rites, said last night it was hypocritical for the Catholic Church to show concern for the welfare of unborn children while demonstrating scant regard for the child victims of sex abuse by clergy.
Broken Rites had even received a number of complaints by victims of predatory priests who had pressured their victims into having an abortion to avert public scandal, the organisation's president, Chris MacIsaac, said.
Ms Johnston said:
"The church just doesn't understand the seriousness of the whole issue of sexual abuse of children ... children's lives are still being sacrificed in the name of the church's ignorance."