Lawyers for abuse survivors have today welcomed the decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal to uphold the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, saying the verdict has seen justice delivered at long last for those abused by Cardinal Pell and their families.
Maurice Blackburn National head of Abuse Law Michelle James said the decision was also hugely significant for abuse survivors the world over and for the leadership of the Church.
“The case of Cardinal Pell goes to the very top of the Catholic Church, and the global significance of today’s decision cannot be understated,” Ms James said.
“For those who bravely brought this case, today’s decision has delivered justice and for abuse survivors more widely, particularly those abused within the Catholic Church, this is a pivotal moment that will give many great hope.
“Today also provides a further much-needed opportunity for the Catholic Church to show that it at last accepts the extent of harm caused to abuse survivors here in Australia, and that it is genuine in its commitment to do the right thing by those survivors.
“That must start with the Catholic Church properly joining the National Redress Scheme – the Church has made sweeping statements about this, but refuses to set aside its own internal dysfunction to ensure that its many different Dioceses and Orders can join the scheme to allow those who have been abused to at last seek redress.
“The Church too continues to stubbornly resist patently common sense measures that go to the heart of protecting children – including opposing lifting the seal of the confessional to allow admissions of abuse to be reported, something it has again fought against very publicly just last week in Victoria.
“It is utterly unacceptable to survivors and to the broader public that the Church continues to resist this important step, it was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission and must be acted on in ensuring that the Church’s representatives are held to the same standards as every other profession when it comes to the mandatory reporting of abuse.
“The Church is not above the law, and it is well past time that they accepted and understood that the safety and welfare of children must always come first.
“This also extends to the Catholic Church’s conduct in legal claims for survivors, there have been countless cases of the Church stonewalling those seeking access to justice and redress that recognises the extent of harm caused. That cannot be allowed to continue.
“Today’s decision will rightly send shockwaves around the world, with the leadership of the Catholic Church now well and truly on notice that abuse survivors will continue the fight to seek access to justice for the wrongs of the past,” she said.