Archdiocese of Sydney overturns sex abuse verdict

Overturn of finding

The Archdiocese of Sydney has overturned findings of a Vatican inquiry which attacked the credibility of alleged child abuse victims and said they may have “fabricated” claims, reports The Australian.

A “definitive final ­decree,” written by Sydney's Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Peter Comensoli, found “with moral certainty” that the alleged victims were abused at a boarding school during the 1970s, as they claimed.

Evidence available to the initial inquiry but not mentioned in the previous decree suggested a “pattern of allegations and admissions” about the priest that “substantially undermines the credibility of his claim to innocence,” Bishop Comensoli found.

His final decree, issued this month, also raised “significant doubts” over the conclusions of the three senior Australian clerics appointed to carry out the original investigation.

Their inquiry, authorised by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described one of the alleged victims as an “exaggerator” and said “it is impossible to determine whether the stories are genuine or fabricated.”

A $43,000 settlement paid by the Vincentians Order to one ­alleged victim was made “for actuarial reasons and to appear pastorally concerned”, the inquiry found.

Days after the contents of this initial decree were published by The Australian in February, the Vatican instructed the Sydney Archdiocese to review its findings, including seeking further evidence from the alleged victims. 

In his final decree, the Bishop found both alleged victims, who cannot be named, were sexually abused while students at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst.

FULL STORY Archdiocese of Sydney dumps George Pell’s sex abuse verdict (The Australian

Letter to the Editor, The Australian

The headline on your story "Successor dumps Pell sex abuse verdict" (18 September) is inaccurate and unfair.

While it is not possible for me to comment on the decree I issued, it is important to be clear that the earlier decree in this process was not issued by Cardinal Pell. The Vatican directed Cardinal Pell to appoint the three senior canon lawyers who issued the earlier decree. He was not involved in anyway either in the review of the case they undertook or in the writing of their decree.

It is a pity that this headline, with the criticism of Cardinal Pell it implies, was chosen for Dan Box's otherwise careful and factual report.

Bishop Peter A. Comensoli
Apostolic Administrator
Archdiocese of Sydney

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