Former Foreign Minister George Yeo has rallied behind Cardinal George Pell who was convicted last December (Dec 11) for raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another.
The offences occurred between December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. In Australian law, anyone under the age of 16 is considered a child.
Pell was once the third most powerful man in the Vatican and Australia’s most senior Catholic. He was also one of Pope Francis most trusted officials.
Pell asserts that the charges against him were a series of “deranged falsehoods”.
Yeo: “We pray that Cardinal Pell will be acquitted in the appeal.”
Yeo, himself a staunch Catholic, published a Facebook post on Tuesday (Mar 5) recounting how he first met Pell, and the “deep respect” he had for the Cardinal’s “sense of mission”. Both Yeo and Pell were council members of the Vatican Council for the Economy which was set up by Pope Francis.
Yeo prays the Cardinal “will be acquitted in the appeal”.
He added that the conviction had filled him “and many others with pain”.
In July 2013, I received a telephone call from Cardinal George Pell whom I did not know with an invitation to…
The pain of sexual assault
The court learnt that some time in December 1996, Pell forced his penis into the mouth of two 13-year-old boys. He also masturbated the victims while simultaneously pleasuring himself. About one month later, as he passed one of the boys in a corridor of the church, Pell pushed the boy against a wall and forcefully squeezed his genitals.
Prosecutors described Pell as having “a degree of callous indifference” as he “humiliated, degraded” and sexually abused the boys.
Netizen to Yeo: “Please do not stand with a child molester”
Yeo’s remarks didn’t sit too well with netizens:
Yeo: “Problem of sexual abuse not a major one in Singapore”
According to a comment by Yeo to Mothership.sg, the issue of sexual abuse cases in the Singapore archdiocese is not a major one.
Yeo pointed to Archbishop of Singapore William Goh’s letter which explained how the Catholic authority in Singapore handles allegations of child abuse cases.
According to the letter, the Singapore archdiocese has an internal investigation outfit called the Professional Standards Office (PSO) to deal with sex abuse complaints against the church. Archbishop Goh claimed that all the cases brought to the PSO have been “judged to be inconclusive” and “confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome”.
Goh also claimed that investigations by the PSO are “conducted at arm’s length from the Archbishop” to “ensure total impartiality and non-interference from the Archbishop’s Office”.
It is worth noting, however that Goh’s letter implied that before the period 2018, cases taken up by the church was investigated internally by the PSO which was set up in 2011. Such cases were investigated without the involvement of the police.
Yeo urged the Church to act swiftly when incidents take place, and see that justice is done, and to look after the victims.
He added that the Singapore Catholic Church must ensure that adequate safeguards are in place.