Australia’s top Catholic cardinal says sexual abuse claims have fallen

May 28, 2013

(Australian Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

The head of the Catholic Church in Australia on Monday blamed a former culture of silence for the cover-up of child abuse by clergy, making it difficult to know the full extent of abuse, but added that the number of cases had dropped significantly since the church started taking stronger action.

Cardinal George Pell, an adviser to Pope Francis on Vatican reforms, told a parliamentary hearing the church had been slow to address the suffering of victims and again issued an apology.

“I am fully apologetic, and absolutely sorry,” said Pell in a tense hearing marked by at times angry questioning over the church’s compensation and investigations. Pell was questioned for more than four hours.

Pell said the number of reports of abuse by clergy members peaked in the 1970s and 80s, but had fallen as the church changed its approach.

“The evidence of misbehaving, crimes, has been significantly reduced. I hope the worst is behind us,” Pell said, adding 300 people in Victoria had received compensation for abuse.

Read the full story by James Grubel here.

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