Pell's warning not contempt: committee

Sydney, Australia - Cardinal George Pell was not in contempt of the NSW Parliament when he warned Catholic MPs they would face "consequences" if they voted in support of a stem cell-related bill, an Upper House committee has ruled.

The Privileges Committee of NSW's Upper house released its findings following an investigation into comments made by Sydney's Catholic Archbishop during a press conference in Sydney in early June.

The committee said it had considered the context of his comments amid repeated questioning from reporters.

It also said the comments appeared to have no impact on MPs' consideration of the Human Cloning and Other Prohibited Practices Amendment Bill 2007, which it said was passed with a "sizeable majority" to end the state's ban on stem cell research in line with a federal move.

"The committee also noted the length of time which has elapsed since the bill was passed, during which there appear to have been no complaints of any member suffering any penalty or sanction as a result of voting for the bill," the committee said.

"In these circumstances, the committee has concluded that no contempt occurred and recommends that no further action be taken in relation to this matter."

A contempt of parliament finding can be made in cases where it is deemed an attempt was made to threaten or intimidate an MP in relation to their parliamentary duties.

Cardinal Pell released a statement welcoming the decision, which he said was "no surprise and a win for religious freedom".

"Christians in Australia have long played an important part in ensuring that fundamental human rights are respected," he also said.

"My contribution to the public discussion on human cloning was made in this spirit and tradition (and) to prevent religious leaders from publicly stating their claims to truth would stifle religious freedom and hamper open debate on matters of public interest."

At a press conference in Sydney on July 5, Cardinal Pell refused to say whether Catholic MPs, who include Premier Morris Iemma, would be excommunicated by the church if they voted in favour of the legislation.

The church would deal with that issue if it arose, he said.

"Cloning is not quite the same as abortion and the legislation for such a thing as cloning is different from actually performing cloning," Cardinal Pell told reporters at the time.

"But it is a serious moral matter and Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the church."