No need to change church structure: Pell

Australian Cardinal George Pell. Source: AAP

George Pell says the Catholic Church doesn't need to change its management structure to better protect children, the abuse royal commission has heard.

Cardinal George Pell says there's no need to change the centuries-old management structure of the Catholic church, which he compares to the Roman Empire.

Giving evidence to the sex abuse royal commission, the cardinal was asked whether a change could help prevent child abuse.

Commission chair Peter McClellan asked whether a modern branch management system to oversee 200 branch offices might be more appropriate.

"The church has been going for a couple of thousand years and our patterns of organisation predates modern corporations and as a matter of fact are a bit similar to the ... Roman Empire," Cardinal Pell said.

He said the structure had been successful and attracted bigger congregations than football crowds in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cardinal Pell explained the size of the Melbourne diocese - with up to 240 parishes and tens of thousands attending masses.

"There's over a million Catholics in Melbourne and in those days the participation rate was 16 or 18 per cent, so back in those days I think we had more people at mass than attending the VFL football," he said.

"I think we've slipped below that, but still tens of thousands in every region."

Cardinal Pell, who was an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne from 1987 to 1996, said he had little power to intervene in archdiocesian matters.

Justice McClellan asked the cardinal if the branch office system would not at least mean an auxiliary bishop would be required to be informed about all of the material relevant to the discharge of his responsibilities.

Cardinal Pell, now the third most powerful man in the Vatican, said this was not a Catholic option.

The Catholic theory was that the priest answers to the bishop, the bishop answers to the Pope. The structure was flat, he said.

"I can see no sufficient reason for us even to recommend that it might be changed and obviously if it was to be changed it would be a question for the universal church as well as ourselves," he said.

Justice McClellan said the commission had been told of management failures in the Melbourne church before Dr Pell's time.

Dr Pell said the Melbourne Response which he put in place when he was archbishop worked to prevent child abuse.

Source AAP

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