PERTH (Reuters) - - A lawyer representing Australian Cardinal George Pell has written to a member of a Vatican commission on sex abuse requesting that he withdraw “false allegations” made in a recent television interview, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Commision member Peter Saunders, in an interview on Australian television last week, said Pell had shown a lack of concern for victims of sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia that was “almost sociopathic”, and his position at the Vatican had become “untenable”.
Saunders comments, which included a call for Pell to be dismissed over allegations he failed to take action to protect children years ago, were widely criticised by senior Catholic Church officials in Australia who defended Pell’s record and consideration for victims of abuse.
The 17-member Vatican commission on sex abuse, which is advising the Pope on how to root out sex abuse in the Church, also distanced itself from Saunder’s criticism saying it “has no jurisdiction to comment on individual cases or inquiries”.
Richard Leder, a lawyer for Pell, sent a letter to Saunders on Thursday requesting that he withdraw “the false allegations” and “correct the record”, adding that it was clear his comments weren’t supported by the Vatican, the newspaper reported in an online article on Sunday.
In the letter, Leder wrote that Pell had given evidence on several occasions to the royal commission investigating child sex abuse and to a state government inquiry refuting on oath the allegations Saunders made.
”In the light of those appearances, your comments were either uninformed as to the relevant history, or were deliberately selective,” the newspaper cited the letter as saying.
Leder could not be reached for comment.
Pell did not appear in the television programme but provided a statement saying that he had always taken a strong stand against child abuse. He has denied moving priests accused of abuse between parishes or offering one victim inducements to drop a complaint.
Reporting by Morag MacKinnon; Editing by Robert Birsel