Reckoning with denial and complicity: child sexual abuse and the case of Cardinal George Pell

Kate Gleeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)


This article is concerned with public responses to allegations of child sexual abuse by representatives of powerful state-like entities such as the Catholic Church. It focuses on the responses of hegemonic groups and individuals to the recent trials and acquittal of the most senior Catholic figure ever to face child sexual abuse charges, Australian Cardinal George Pell, and his sworn testimony denying knowledge of sex crimes committed by a priest he associated with in the past. The article examines organised political campaigns denying the possibility of child sexual abuse in relation to a more generalised cultural denial permeating society about the entrenched nature of child abuse. As a means for coming to terms with the denial of atrocities, this article invokes philosophical debates about responsibility for mass crimes in the context of war tribunals, such as those formulated by Simone de Beauvoir and Hannah Arendt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Catholic Church
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Complicity
  • Denial
  • Institutional abuse


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