A petition from a clergy abuse survivor to defrock Cardinal George Pell has amassed some 35,000 signatures in three days.
Paul Levey, who was abused by notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, launched the petition after previously redacted findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse were tabled in parliament.
“Please, help me get Pell removed from the protection of the Catholic Church in Australia and Rome,” Levey wrote.
“The Church needs to face survivors and offer fair compensation, not the dismal offers you have made in the past.
“The Pope needs to set an example, showing child abuse and the cover-up of child abuse is not acceptable and will be dealt with by the law of the land, not your canon law!”
The Royal Commission found that Pell was made aware at a meeting in 1982 that Ridsdale was being moved from the parish of Mortlake because of his alleged sexual abuse of children. More than a decade later, in 1993, Pell accompanied Ridsdale to court and offered to provide character evidence.
In a statement, Pell said he was “surprised” by the Royal Commission’s findings, saying he was not made aware of Ridsdale’s offending. Ridsdale is currently in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing 65 children.
Levey told the ABC he hopes his petition will show the Vatican there’s “a lot of people out there that aren’t happy” with the way the Catholic Church has dealt with sexual abuse within the clergy.
“Whether Pope Francis takes any notice of it, or just dismisses it, it shows the community of survivors that there’s 32,000 people behind us now,” Levey said.
The Church resisted defrocking Pell even after his conviction, appearing to wait until the appeals process was complete. If Pope Francis chose to act, it wouldn’t be without precedent; last year former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was defrocked after the church found him guilty of abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, marking the first time a cardinal was defrocked for sexual abuse.
You can sign the petition here.
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