Victims are angry Cardinal George Pell’s postponed royal commission appearance means they have to wait even longer for the Catholic Church to be held accountable.
Cardinal Pell was to appear before the child abuse royal commission in Melbourne next week but will now front a Ballarat sitting in February.
Stephen Woods was among victims of pedophile priests outraged by Cardinal Pell’s attempt to give his evidence via videolink from Rome next week, due to a worsened heart condition.
“Being held in February, that’s fine, but of course the victims are still waiting,” Mr Woods told reporters.
“We’ve been waiting years. Yet again the victims have to pay the price of an organisation that just does not want to be held accountable.”
The one upside for Ballarat victims is Cardinal Pell now has to give his evidence in the Victorian regional city, his health permitting, as they had wanted all along.
“It will be good to see that Ballarat will finally get some of the healing that it needs,” Mr Woods said.
“Ballarat has been the centre of incredible amounts of crimes and sex crimes against children and so Ballarat needs to be the place where Pell and the church really has its own Eureka Stockade.”
London-based David Ridsdale, a nephew and victim of Australia’s worst pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale, said the buck stopped with Cardinal Pell as Australia’s most senior Catholic figure.
“He is the man who needs to come and answer on behalf of the church, because he has made it clear the church the corporation is different to the church made up of the people that are in the parishes.
“But for some reason it’s the parishes who are being forced to bear all the responsibility for costs and for the behaviours of priests.”
Cardinal Pell has consistently said he intended to do everything possible to assist the royal commission, his office said in a statement.
It said he had to heed medical advice after a specialist cardiologist advised it was not safe for him to undertake long-haul flights in his current condition.
Cardinal Pell’s commission evidence will cover the church’s handling of child sex abuse in both the Melbourne archdiocese and the Ballarat diocese, which covers the western third of Victoria.
The former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop and Ballarat priest has already appeared twice before the royal commission about other issues, including once via videolink from Rome.