George Pell gives evidence at the Royal Commission.
George Pell gives evidence at the Royal Commission.

Opinion: Pell's legacy will be his skill at avoiding blame

UNDER questioning by the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, Cardinal George Pell could not avoid being defensive.

He was quizzed on the rules of the church's own "Towards Healing" program, a project designed to right the wrongs perpetrated by predators within the clergy.

Towards Healing was nothing but a pleasant-sounding title for John Ellis.

His years of abuse as a teenager left scars open for decades.

After a lifetime of denial, his brave confrontation with the church was rewarded with a tersely-worded letter saying it would not believe his story.

There would be no help, no support and no apology.

Now - after lengthy legal battles and now a sprawling Royal Commission - there is an admission.

In a formal statement to the Commission, Cardinal Pell wrote, "I deeply regret the pain, trauma and emotional damage that this abuse caused to Mr Ellis.".

"The crimes that were committed against Mr Ellis and others by priests and others in the community should never have occurred.

"The Catholic community should be one of the safest places for children and young people and it is a completely unacceptable failure whenever a child has been hurt by a sexual predator in the church."

Left with nowhere to move by Justice Peter McClellan, the Cardinal was stuck having to either concede wrongdoing or playing ignorant.

Pell attempted to downplay the prevalence of abuse in the church.

He told how he knew little of abuse allegations because he is "not a micro-manager" even as he admitted Mr Ellis' claim was "plainly very serious".

His formal statement to the Royal Commission attempts to paint the Italy-bound clergyman as remorseful, sincere and pained with regret.

In person, he undermines the lot of it.

Before he disappears to become the head of finances for the Vatican, Cardinal Pell could have left something powerful to ease the pain of the suffering.

Instead he left the mark of a man skilled at avoiding blame.



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