A Sydney man has accused Cardinal George Pell of failing to disclose details of a past sexual abuse by a priest to a victim while Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey has denied receiving earlier knowledge of other sexual abuse allegations dating from 2000.
ABC News reports Church documents reveal Australia's highest ranking Catholic, George Pell, concealed details of a priest's history of sexual abuse from a victim seeking justice.
ABC's Lateline program says a victim of a sexual assault by Father Terence Goodall was told by Cardinal Pell that his was the sole complaint. However, Cardinal Pell referred to an internal investigation into two assaults by Father Goodall.
Cardinal Pell told the victim, Anthony Jones, that a complaint of sexual assault could not be upheld, despite the report finding that the complaint was sustained.
Mr Jones says he was devastated by Cardinal Pell's letter.
"He had to know that there was other complaints because he wrote on the same day to the man who as an 11 year old boy was assaulted by Father Goodall," he said.
"His signatures were on the letters so he had to know.
"Cardinal Pell misrepresented the truth.
"It destroyed my faith. Ripped it to pieces.
"I now hate Catholicism because of what Cardinal Pell has done to me.
"More so than what Father Goodall did to me."
A letter from the Church's lawyers suggested that for legal reasons the ABC should not reveal the documents.
Chris McIsaac, the president of Broken Rites, a group established to help victims of church-related sexual abuse, says the problem is not being taken seriously.
"This matter certainly needs to be sorted out and maybe Dr Pell even needs to stand aside while it is sorted out," he said.
"Something needs to be done that's significant that shows how serious a matter this is."
However, in a statement released early this morning, Cardinal Pell denied there was a cover up or that he tried to mislead Mr Jones.
"There was no attempt at a cover up," he said. "The letter to Mr Jones was badly worded and a mistake, an attempt to inform him there was no other allegation of rape."
"However, I signed both letters of February 2003 mentioned in the ABC's Lateline program, and any fault in the drafting was mine.
"The accusations against Father Goodall were investigated by the Church and the police and Father Goodall was stood down.
"In a subsequent letter soon after the February 2003 letter I expressed my sorrow at what Mr Jones had suffered and offered to meet him.
"There was no attempt to mislead him. I apologise for the confusion caused to Mr Jones."
Perth accusations over Bethel community
Meanwhile, the West Australian reports that Archbishop Barry Hickey, who has denied receiving any sexual misconduct complaints about the leaders of the Church-backed Bethel Covenant Community until last year, was handed written details of sexual harassment as early as 2000.
The paper says it has obtained a copy of a report signed by former members of the religious movement in August 2000, which outlined allegations of how the community’s leader Kevin Horgan asked female members their favourite sexual positions and urged one to remove her underwear.
The 13 page report, together with a request for a full-blown investigation, was handed directly to Archbishop Hickey during a meeting with a delegation of long term Bethel members, who had decided to leave the community in disgust. Two of the report's authors were former priests, while others included a teacher and a psychiatrist. The West Australian has interviewed three of the authors.
"Some (members) have witnessed some of the Bethel men . . . touching or pinching women's buttocks, or publicly discussing sexual freedoms a woman ought to be enjoying, or even employing with her husband," the 2000 report said.
But responding to questions from The West Australian in May, asking what and when the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth knew about the Bethel scandal, the Archbishop denied having any knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations until 2007.
"No complaints about sexual misconduct were received until 2007 when concerns about the conduct of the leader were brought to Bishop Sproxton by a third party," the Church statement read.
The statement, which surprised those who met Archbishop Hickey in 2000, said that it had not been until February 2008 that a first hand account of sexual misconduct against the Bethel leader was made.
A spokesman for the Archbishop acknowledged that the meeting took place and that a report was handed to the Archbishop. He rejected any suggestion the Church’s previous answers were now contradicted by the discovery of the 2000 report and would not respond further.
Pell letter misled sex abuse victim (ABC News, 7/7/08)Pell accused of sex abuse cover-up (Sydney Morning Herald, 8/7/08)
Archbishop saw Horgan sex report 8 years ago (West Australian, 4/7/08)