Cardinal George says he "emphatically and unequivocally rejects any allegations of sexual abuse" against him, in response to a story on the ABC's 7.30 program last night that police are investigating child abuse allegations against him.
In a statement to the ABC, Cardinal Pell's office accused the ABC of mounting a smear campaign against him. "Claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong.
"He denies the allegations absolutely, and says that they, and any acceptance of them by the ABC, are nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign which appears to be championed by the ABC. If there was any credibility in any of these claims, they would have been pursued by the Royal Commission by now."
The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, said in a statement last night: "The allegations aired on the ABC do not correspond with the George Pell I know. He has a record of leadership in the fight against child sexual abuse, and was the first Bishop in the world to implement a process under which such claims would be investigated by an independent commissioner, and where survivors could access financial and other assistance.
"Cardinal Pell deserves the presumption of innocence. Those who believe they have been abused deserve to be heard with respect and compassion. And the community deserves the rule of law be respected. Trial by media benefits no one."
The 7.30 Report last night claimed Victoria Police's Taskforce SANO, which investigates complaints coming out of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, has been examining allegations by complainants from Ballarat, Torquay, and Melbourne for more than a year.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed last month that the taskforce was investigating multiple allegations against the Cardinal and, if necessary, detectives would fly to Rome to interview him, although the Chief Commissioner said "it had not been put as necessary to me at this point in time."