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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Australian bishop denies sex cover-up
Sex scandals have rocked the Catholic Church
A Roman Catholic archbishop in Australia has furiously denied that he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by priests.

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, called a news conference on Thursday to denounce a television programme which is due to detail the allegations this weekend.

The allegations that I made such attempts or offers are not only unfounded but also implausible

Sydney Archbishop George Pell
Channel Nine's 60 Minutes programme says it will report that the archbishop asked the nephew of a priest who has since been jailed for child abuse, what it would take to keep him quiet about his uncle's actions.

The programme will also allege that Archbishop Pell offered the family of two other victims a big pay-off if they kept quiet about the abuse of their daughters.

Archbishop Pell said the allegations were "not only unfounded but also implausible".

He says he is considering taking legal action against the programme.

The allegations come amid a crisis that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church around the world, with several priests in the United States, Ireland and Hong Kong accused of child abuse.


Archbishop Pell said 60 Minutes would allege that he attempted to cover up claims of sexual abuse against a Catholic priest, Gerald Ridsdale, in 1993.

Sex abuse scandals
Australia: Governor-General Peter Hollingworth accused of mishandling alleged sex abuse in mid 1990s
Cover-up alleged of 1986-1991 sex abuse at Catholic school in Adelaide
US: Cases of abuse have come to light in at least 17 dioceses
Hong Kong: At least seven priests accused of child abuse

Father Ridsdale pleaded guilty in 1994 to sexually assaulting 21 children.

The programme will allege that his nephew, David Ridsdale, phoned Archbishop Pell, then a bishop in Melbourne, to make the sexual abuse claims against his uncle.

The archbishop did not dispute that the phone call was made, but denied trying to bribe David Ridsdale to stay quiet.

"In the course of my interview with 60 Minutes it was alleged that I said to David words to the effect 'What will it take to keep you quiet?'" Archbishop Pell told reporters.


"I emphatically and totally deny the allegation that I made any attempt to buy David's silence," Australia's ABC network reported him as saying.

Peter Hollingworth takes the oath of office as the governor-general of Australia, June 2001
Governor-General Peter Hollingworth was also accused of mishandling sex abuse claims

"It is also alleged that I offered to buy David a house or a car. I emphatically and totally deny having made any such offer."

The archbishop claims that 60 Minutes "ambushed" him by misrepresenting the issue it said it wanted to interview him about.

But 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton claimed he had fully briefed the archbishop before the programme and the archbishop had made no complaint during the recording.

'Documentary evidence'

Mr Carleton said Archbishop Pell denied the bribery allegations during the interview.

"And then I produced corroborative evidence and he said the witnesses that I produced were... misinformed," he said.

Mr Carleton said he then produced "other evidence" from a family in Melbourne whose daughters had also been sexually abused by a Catholic priest.

"They gave me a letter from Archbishop Pell's solicitors.

"The letter says we act for Archbishop Pell and later goes on to offer them $50,000 to shut up."

Earlier this year, Australia's Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, came under pressure to resign over his alleged mishandling of child sex abuse cases during his time as Anglican archbishop of Brisbane.

See also:

15 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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