Cardinal hits back at groping claim 'smear campaign'

Cardinal George Pell is the finance chief for Pope Francis (above) at the Vatican. Photo / AP
Cardinal George Pell is the finance chief for Pope Francis (above) at the Vatican. Photo / AP

Australian Cardinal George Pell has vehemently denied groping allegations against him and says he is the victim of a "scandalous smear campaign" championed by the ABC.

Two men have told Victoria Police they were abused as children by the Cardinal when he was a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s.

They have gone public with their stories on ABC's 7:30, saying he groped them while they swam at Ballarat's Eureka Pool during the summer of 1978-79.

But in a response from Rome the cardinal said, "I have done nothing wrong".

He called for an investigation into alleged leaks of information from Victoria Police to the ABC and whether there was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The two accusers, now in their 40s, gave statements to Victoria Police's special child exploitation task force Sano last year.

Lyndon Monument said Cardinal Pell would play games with many of the boys while in the pool, throwing them in and out of the water, but also brushing against their genitals.

"That slowly became hand down your pants, or your bathers or whatever you call them ... under the water," Monument said.

Classmate Danian Dignan said he didn't feel Cardinal Pell's actions were accidental.

"Fair enough, (if it happened) one time. But it got to a stage where every time he picked you up (his hand) was there. And, it was not much fun," he told 7:30.

The two men said he would also often change in front of them. "He'd undress and then he would say to us to undress," Monument told 7:30.

"So we would undress and then he would teach you how to dry your testicles and in between your bum and stuff like that."

But the Cardinal, who is the Pope's finance chief at the Vatican, said any claims of abuse against him were "totally untrue and completely wrong".

In his statement he said the allegations were "nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign which appears to be championed by the ABC".

"I bear no ill will and have no desire to cause them (the accusers) harm but what they say about me is not true," the Cardinal said.

The statement said there had been no requests made by Sano to interview the Cardinal and the Victorian Police Commissioner confirmed last month that no request to interview him had been proposed to him as necessary.

It said there appeared to have been "improper and illegal" leaking of allegations by elements of the Victorian Police to the ABC.

"The Cardinal calls for an investigation to assess whether any actions of elements of the Victoria Police and the ABC programme amount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice," the statement said.

Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said that the allegations needed to be investigated in a way that afforded all parties natural justice.

"No one is served when such due process is replaced with trial by media," he said.

The Archbishop said the Cardinal had a record of leadership in the fight against child sexual abuse and "the allegations aired on the ABC do not correspond with the George Pell I know".

- AAP

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