Bishop admits abuse money offer


Just days after angrily denying that he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by priests, Australia's most senior Roman Catholic churchman has been forced to admit offering victims thousands of dollars.

In a programme aired on Australian television on Sunday night, Sydney Archbishop George Pell was presented with a copy of a letter sent on his behalf offering nearly $30,000 (50,000 Australian dollars) to the family of two women who had been sexually abused as children by a priest.

Initially he denied that allegation, however later admitted an offer had been made.

"I offered them 50 grand in compensation according to the publicly acknowledged procedure," he said.

"They chose not to accept that."

The revelations in Australia come amidst a continuing scandal in the United States, where the Catholic Church has faced allegations that it covered up abuse of children by its priests.

'Hush money' denial

The two girl's parents, whose names were only given as Gary and Elizabeth, met Archbishop Pell after making the allegations.

They said the offer was made to them through lawyers acting on Archbishop Pell's behalf, and they were also warned if they did not accept it that any legal action they might take would be "strenuously defended" by the Church, the Associated Press news agency reported.

However Archbishop Pell, despite admitting the offer, denied that the payment was "hush money" intended to buy the silence of victims.

"I did not attempt to silence any victim or buy them off," he told French news agency AFP.

"The allegations that I attempted to silence anyone are totally unfounded and totally untrue."

Further allegations

On the same programme, Archbishop Pell denied he had offered a bribe to a man who came to him for help, saying he too had been sexually abused by a priest.

David Ridsdale, who was sexually abused by his uncle, priest Father Gerald Ridsdale, alleged that when he asked Archbishop Pell for assistance in 1993 he said to him: "I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet".

However Archbishop Pell, although acknowledging he may have offered to help David Ridsdale, denied using such words.

"I couldn't, would never have said that," Archbishop Pell said.

"I had no capacity to offer him anything, anywhere. His recollection is wrong."

Both the priests involved in the allegations went to prison for sexual offences against children.

adam on Tuesday 04 June 2002 - 04:09:42