A priest who says he accompanied Cardinal George Pell every time he was at St Patrick’s Cathedral has challenged an allegation against the Cardinal in an interview with Victoria Police, The Australian reports.
The priest, who was on the then-Archbishop of Melbourne’s staff from September 1996 to January 2001 told police late last year it was "physically impossible for Archbishop Pell to have been alone with anyone in the Cathedral, before, during, or after the celebration of Sunday Mass or on any other occasion".
The cathedral abuse allegation, raised on ABC’s 7.30 a year ago, forms one of the most provocative chapters of journalist Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, published by Melbourne University Press.
The priest, who has refused to become embroiled in a defence-by-media, answered police questions related to an alleged incident after a Sunday Mass at the Cathedral between July and December one year.
Those familiar with the allegation, and who understand the workings of a cathedral, believed from the outset the claim was preposterous — especially the suggestion that the then Archbishop found the boys helping themselves to altar wine in a backroom.
The priest told The Australian he was questioned extensively by police about altar wine, that was locked in a vault, with valuable chalices. Only about a teaspoonful was ever left over after Masses.
"At no time before, during or after Mass was the Archbishop in direct contact with anyone except that I was present," the priest told police in a statement. "I was always standing next to him and usually at an arm’s length away."
Victoria Police have been pursing inquiries about alleged incidents at the Cathedral for nearly two years. A few days before Christmas 2015, Melbourne newspapers reported that Taskforce Sano wanted "to speak to anyone who was a victim of a sexual assault, or anybody with any information relating to any alleged sexual assaults, committed at the St Patrick’s Cathedral between 1996 and 2001".
Cardinal Pell has denied all allegations of abuse and has co-operated fully with the investigation.
George Pell: priest challenges choir boy abuse allegations (The Australian)