29 Apr 19

ADMISSION: Cardinal George Pell appearing at the inquiry on Monday. Picture: Joe ArmaoAUSTRALIA’S most senior Catholic did nothing to ease the pain caused by clergy sexual abuse when he gave an ‘‘insincere’’ apology, victims and their supporters say.

Cardinal George Pell told the Victorian parliamentary inquiry he was ‘‘fully apologetic and absolutely sorry’’ for the abuse at the hands of clergy.

During intense questioning yesterday that lasted more than four hours, Cardinal Pell admitted that abuse had been covered up, documents destroyed and priests had been moved on.

A fear of scandal led to the cover-up and the primary reason would have been to protect the reputation of the Church, he said.

He also admitted a priest’s resignation letter had been backdated and made no mention of his crimes.

But Cardinal Pell denied personally being involved in any cover-up.

Victims and their supporters said Cardinal Pell was insincere, diverted blame to others and should resign.

There were scoffs and howls from the public gallery at some of the claims made by the Sydney archbishop and former Melbourne archbishop.

Stephen Woods, who was abused by a paedophile priest, was dumbfounded by Cardinal Pell’s claim that he acted in the best interests of victims.

‘‘The little care for the victims that he showed, showed that they still don’t get it,’’ Mr Woods said.

‘‘He needs to resign. His era is finished.’’

Leonie Sheedy, whose organisation represents people abused in orphanages, said a national public apology was needed.

‘‘I didn’t think the apology was sincere,’’ she said.

‘‘He kept saying over and over things are much better these days. Well, we are not having this inquiry about today.

‘‘We are having an inquiry into how they have neglected and stonewalled and denied that these crimes were committed against children.’’

Geelong priest Father Kevin Dillon sat with several victims at the inquiry and said they were unimpressed by Cardinal Pell’s statements.

‘‘They have been searching for a degree of compassion, understanding and support, and almost universally to the victims I have spoken to, they have been disappointed,’’ he said.

Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were abused by a priest, said there was no mea culpa from Cardinal Pell and he did not promise to do everything he could for victims.

Several hundred victims and their supporters attended the inquiry packing into the hearing room and a second room.

Cardinal Pell said he did not believe there was a culture of abuse.

‘‘I think the bigger fault was that nobody would talk about it, nobody would mention it,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t think many, if any, persons in the leadership of the Catholic Church knew what a horrendous widespread mess we were sitting on,’’ he said.

The inquiry is expected to deliver its finding in September. AAP

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