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Abuse survivors raise money to see George Pell give evidence at Vatican

Wed 17 Feb 2016
By Hannah Tooley

Survivors of child abuse have raised $90,000 (around £45,000) to see Cardinal George Pell travel to Rome to give evidence.

Australian comedian Tim Minchin even made a song to assist with the crowdfunding campaign.

Survivors want to see Cardinal Pell and a select group of representatives go to Rome to see Australia's most senior Catholic give evidence before a special child abuse commission.

It is after the Cardinal's lawyers said he had medical documents meaning he was unable to go and so the commission chairperson, Justice McClellan, agreed George Pell was allowed to give video-evidence, rather than travel to Rome in person.

A gofundme campaign was launched after radio personality Meshel Laurie and the television presenter Gorgi Coghlan wanted to send survivors, as well as a psychologists and counsellors to Rome, where Mr Pell stands as the Vatican's financial head.

The target of $55,000 was exceeded in one day. An anonymous donor gave $10,000 towards the cause.

Speaking to The Guardian, one donor, Noelene Plummer, said: "After caring for victims of child abuse over the years I have seen the immense damage it has had on their lives.

"I hope they can find some healing."

Another donor Marianne Cochrane wrote that: "For those who didn't survive. For those who can't speak. For those with the strength to represent."

The comedian Tim Minchin has openly criticised the Cardinal for not coming to Australia to give evidence, calling him a "coward."

In 2015, the commission heard evidence from a child sex abuse survivor who alleged that Pell had attempted to bribe him to keep quiet about the abuse he had endured.

Cardinal Pell denies the allegations.

The commission has said that it is trying to find an appropriate location, adding that it cannot force Cardinal Pell to attend the venue it decides on, he would have to agree to attend.

Last time, he appeared before the court via video-link and technical problems made the giving of evidence more difficult - in August 2014 he faced questions about the Melbourne Response, a scheme he introduced to the Catholic archdiocese of Melbourne in 1996 to investigate sex abuse claims.

Mr Pell has told the court he is willing to give evidence in May 2016.

He has said that poor health means that he has not been able to fly to Australia.

George Pell will give evidence via video link at the end of February.

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