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Vatican finance minister heard in Australia child abuse case

Cardinal George Pell played key role in case of George Ellis

24 March, 17:11
Vatican finance minister heard in Australia child abuse case (ANSA) - Sydney, March 24 - A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Monday questioned the archbishop of Sydney and newly appointed Vatican finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, about his handling of the case of a former choirboy who tried to sue the Catholic Church after reporting he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child.

Pell, who on February 25 was appointed prefect of Pope Francis' newly created Economy Secretariat, told the commission that until the 1990s, the Church was skeptical of complaints of abuse and gave accused molesters "the benefit of the doubt".

According to legal experts, Pell saved the Catholic Church millions of dollars in potential damages with his handling of Ellis, who charged he was sexually abused by the late Father Aidan Duggan from 1974 to 1979.

Ellis lost his case in 2007, when an Australian court accepted the Vatican's argument that the Catholic Church is not liable for damages because it does not exist as a legal entity.

Pope Francis on Saturday named the first eight members of his new sex-abuse policy commission.

Half of them are women and include Marie Collins, who was assaulted at the age of 13 by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland and has gone on to campaign for accountability in the Church.

Also named was Cardinal Sean O'Malley, one of Francis' key advisers and the archbishop of Boston, where the US pedophile priest scandal erupted in 2002. The Vatican in December announced that Francis would create the commission to advise the church on how to protect children, train Church personnel and keep abusers out of the clergy.