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Cardinal George Pell is the Catholic Church leader who is allegedly responsible for covering up instances of child sexual abuse by priests in Victoria, Australia. He now lives in the Vatican, where he serves as Pope Francis‘ top financial adviser. That’s mighty convenient since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is currently investigating the matter in Australia, which he could attend in person due to a sickness.

But yesterday, Pell testified for four hours via video while dozens of abuse survivors sat in person to listen to his testimony:


Pell asserted at the start: “I’m not here to defend the indefensible. The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those.” He said the church had “mucked things up and let people down” and for too long had dismissed credible abuse allegations “in absolutely scandalous circumstances.”

… Pell also acknowledged that he too had made mistakes in often believing the priests over victims who alleged abuse.

“I must say in those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial,” he said

“Enormous mistakes” is quite a euphemism for deliberately covering up sexual abuse.

The apology, if you want to call it that, also comes decades too late to make a difference. Child abuse is not something where it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. And the survivors were not impressed with Pell’s testimony:

“Words are one thing. Actions are another,” [abuse survivor David Ridsdale] said, in calling for a church-funded compensation scheme that addresses the fact many survivors are so traumatized by their abuse that they cannot support themselves financially.

Pell vowed to meet with victims visiting Rome as a way to help them heal, but that amounts to sending your kid a $20 bill after abandoning him in his childhood. What’s the point?

The best path forward is to create a culture where abuse is minimized, priests are punished for their illegal actions, and those responsible for covering it up are put in jail rather than finding a job at the right hand of the Pope.

(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier.)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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