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The telling words George Pell uttered 16 years ago that shocked members of his own church. 

The following contains details of sexual assault which may be distressing. For 24-hour support, please call 1800 RESPECT. 

In 2002, then 61-year-old Sydney archbishop George Pell attended World Youth Day – a celebration held by the Catholic Church.

Greg Rickert, a youth minister from Kentucky asked Pell about the widespread child sexual abuse within the church, and how Catholics should respond when questioned about it.

In front of 500 young Catholics, Pell replied, “Abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people.”

Rickert – confronted by Pell’s response – asked the archbishop if he could clarify what he meant.

“Because [abortion] is always a destruction of human life,” Pell said.

Listen to The Quicky explain exactly what’s happened with George Pell. Post continues. 

Criticism was swiftly waged from both inside and outside the church, with then Opposition leader Simon Crean responding: “Sexual abuse of children is one of the most repugnant and serious of crimes which can never be condoned, excused or reduced in severity by comparison to some other act.”

Child protection advocate Hetti Johnston described Pell’s comments as “ghastly, insensitive and appalling,” adding, “the church just doesn’t understand the seriousness of the whole issue of sexual abuse of children … children’s lives are still being sacrificed in the name of the church’s ignorance.”

Upon returning to Australia, Pell reiterated that there are other ‘scandals’ which go under-reported, including abortion that “destroys innocent life”.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Pell was asked what he would say to families of the young people who taken their lives as a consequence of child sexual abuse. He answered: “There’s not too many of those.”

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found otherwise.

On Tuesday, Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, was found guilty of child sex abuse.

The court ruled that 77-year-old Pell had raped a choirboy in the 1990s and molested another.

One victim stood trial, while the other did not live to see his abuser convicted. He died of a heroin overdose in 2014.

Pell, back in 2002, would have us believe that it’s abortion, not child sex abuse, that destroys innocent human life.

We’d beg to differ.

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