An Australian cleric hand picked by Pope France to head up a Vatican ministry has compared child sex abuse to a trucker molesting a woman.
Cardinal George Pell’s comments have caused outrage across the world after he made comparisons between the Catholic Church’s response to sex abuse to that of a trucking company whose worker is accused of molesting a woman.
A former archbishop of both Melbourne and Sydney, Cardinal Pell was recently appointed as head of a new Vatican finance ministry by Pope Francis.
Irish state broadcaster RTE reports that Cardinal Pell did acknowledge to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne that the church had a moral obligation to the victims of paedophile priests.
But he caused consternation when he said that when it came to its legal responsibility, the actions of its priests were not necessarily the fault of the church.
Speaking via a video link from Rome, he then cited the hypothetical example of a woman being molested by a truck driver.
Cardinal Pell said: “If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don’t think it’s appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible.
“Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.
“If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”
Support groups have slammed the comments and accused Cardinal Pell of lacking compassion for victims of abuse.
Cathy Kezelman, president of the Adults Surviving Child Abuse group, said:
“His comments were outrageous. He continues to duck and weave in trying to deny liability.
“To have victims experiences denied yet again drives a knife into the wound and twists it.”
Nicky Davis, from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, added:
“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors.
“It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behaviour that is inexcusable.”