Australian Catholic University staff want Greg Craven disciplined over Pell support

The vice-chancellor who told staff not to comment on the trial provided a reference for the cardinal

Australian Catholic University staff have called for their vice-chancellor and president, Greg Craven, to be disciplined after he publicly supported paedophile Cardinal George Pell and described his trial as unfair in an article for The Australian.

Craven, who did not attend the trial and who has not seen the complainant’s evidence, in the meantime told university staff not to comment. In an all-staff email he wrote: “The university respects the judicial process and will not be making any comment until all legal avenues including any appeal have been concluded.”

Craven was also among those who provided Pell with a character reference during his sentencing hearing, describing the disgraced prelate as a “deeply sensitive person: thoughtful, considerate; and notably charitable”.

The Australian Catholic University branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Dr Leah Kaufmann, said she had been inundated with calls and emails from staff at all campuses, including those in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Ballarat.

“The staff were very consistent in expressing concerns that by having him [Craven] comment publicly people would think he was representing the views of staff,” Kaufmann told Guardian Australia.

“Many said his comments lacked consideration for abuse survivors, who they are committed to supporting, and felt the comments did nothing to rebuild trust in the church.”

The letter on behalf of NTEU members was sent to the chancellor, John Fahey, and accused Craven of “clear hypocrisy in light of the statement that the University will not be making any comment until the appeal has run its course”.

“Further, Professor Craven’s personal beliefs are not representative of staff who are concerned with the safeguarding children, supporting survivors of sexual abuse, and who respect the judicial system of our country and its outcomes.

“For these reasons, I request that you sanction the Vice-Chancellor for his actions and insist that he adhere to his commitments. Specifically, that he make no further personal comments on the case as a representative of ACU.”

The letter said “staff have expressed dismay or repugnance” at Craven’s actions.

Guardian Australia has contacted Fahey and several of the university’s trustees for comment.

Dr Stephen Weller, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor and chief operating officer, said the university had not supported Pell’s court case financially.

“It would be inappropriate for a public university to use public money to support a private legal matter,” he said.


Melissa Davey

The GuardianTramp