It was reported yesterday that three detectives from Victoria Police had travelled to Rome to interview Cardinal George Pell.
The statement issued by Victoria Police was brief:
Three members of Victoria Police travelled to Rome last week where Cardinal George Pell voluntarily participated in an interview regarding allegations of sexual assault. As a result of the interview further investigations are continuing. We are not prepared to comment at this time.
And so was the response from Cardinal Pell:
A spokesperson for the Cardinal has confirmed that he was voluntarily interviewed by Victoria Police in Rome. The Cardinal repeats his previous rejection of all and every allegation of sexual abuse and will continue to co-operate with Victoria Police until the investigation is finalised. The Cardinal has no further comment at this time.
That’s it. Anything more than that appearing in the media is speculation, exaggeration or something else.
I don’t know about you, but the limited information in the releases left me in two minds.
After leaks of information earlier in the year which resulted in allegations being broadcast on ABC’s 7.30 Report, on the one hand I was happy that the media did not receive further details, because unproven allegations of sexual abuse should not be broadcast. Not only does it undermine the seeking of a just result, a false allegation can do untold damage, because there will always be a segment of society which thinks: “Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
On the other hand, I want to know more. I want to know why the police chose to go over to Rome. I want to know whether it is because the investigation actually necessitated it, or whether the police wanted to demonstrate that they have taken every step open to them in investigating this matter. We have heard claims that there exists within the police force a “Catholic Mafia” which obfuscates any attempt to pursue charges against Church officials. A failure to interview the Cardinal would play into this narrative, and a discontinuation of the case without hearing from him would constantly be held up as an “example” of this.
If I was a member of Victoria Police, I would make sure every box was ticked. I would want no room for anyone to accuse me of taking a person’s status into account in an investigation. I would go to Rome.
I’m not a member of Victoria Police, but I am a member of the Catholic Church. And to be honest, I think I want the same things.
I want a thorough investigation to be done. I don’t want steps to be skipped. I don’t want the Cardinal’s status to be a factor in the investigation of the claims made against him. I want truth pursued.
And while I don’t presume to speak for his accusers, I hope that they want the same as well. Due process is in everybody’s interests, after all.
So, what now?
I think there are a handful of possibilities.
Obviously, if investigations are continuing, there is the possibility that charges could be laid. In an earlier catholicTalk piece, we highlighted some questions about some of the claims made against the Cardinal, and the laying of charges would rest on whether or not these and other inconsistencies are resolved.
Otherwise, the continuing investigations could lead to the conclusion that the Cardinal does not have a case to answer and the investigations cease.
If this happens and the police decide to announce it, then it will hopefully bring some resolution to the matter. There will be some who will always think him guilty (such is the nature of the allegations being aired publicly) but there will be others who will accept the police’s conclusion.
Or, the police could come to the decision to conclude the investigation and not announce it, meaning that we will never know, and these allegations will sit unanswered, at least in the eyes of the public.
I guess all we can do is wait, hoping that due process is afforded everyone affected so that a clear resolution can come about. And despite our eagerness to know about progress, we should probably also prefer that this is not played out in the media, because that doesn’t really serve anyone.
Monica Doumit, catholicTalk editor