Significance of Pell verdict must not be ignored by the Catholic Church

26 February 2019
Lawyers for abuse survivors have today acknowledged the verdict handed down by the County Court in relation to Cardinal George Pell, saying it was a hugely significant development both in Australia and internationally for the Catholic Church and its response to claims of abuse.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said while an appeal had been lodged in the matter, the broader significance of the conviction, if upheld, and its potential impacts for the Catholic Church could not be understated.

“This is a major development that if upheld will have wide ranging implications for the Catholic Church not only here in Australia but internationally,” Ms James said.

“For many survivors this verdict is hugely significant - the Catholic Church for too long has repeatedly shown that it is incapable of taking responsibility for the actions of members of the Church and in showing genuine compassion and remorse to survivors of abuse.

“Just last weekend the world’s most senior Catholics met in Rome to discuss child sexual abuse and the response could not have been more appalling – despite everything that is known about historical abuse it is evident that the Catholic Church still do not appreciate the extent of the harm caused or have a genuine willingness to make this right.

“The Catholic Church however cannot ignore this verdict, it goes to the very top of the Church and whatever the outcome it must be an impetus for the Church to at long last show a real commitment to survivors in how it responds to this verdict and any implications stemming more widely from it.

“This must start with the Catholic Church here in Australia resolving internal dysfunction over joining the national redress scheme, such a commitment remains long overdue and is more urgent than ever in ensuring survivors have proper access to justice in seeking redress, including for anyone that may come forward as a result of these developments.

“We also again call on the Catholic Church to respond genuinely and compassionately to those survivors who choose to exercise their rights in bringing legal claims to hold the Church to account, including for redress that recognises the full extent of harm caused,” she said.