Sydney, Australia, Aug. 22--(AP) The child sex abuse crisis in Australia's Catholic Church deepened Thursday as newspapers reported three more boys had claimed they were assaulted at church-run summer camps held in the 1960s.

The allegations follow claims that Australia's most senior clergyman, Sydney Archbishop George Pell, had molested a 12-year-old boy at one of the camps 41 years ago. Pell, 61, has vehemently denied the allegations. He has stepped down from his post until an inquiry is completed.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Thursday that three former altar boys had been abused by a priest - not Pell - and a lay worker at the Young Christian Workers holiday camp on Phillip Island, off the coast of southern Australia. It did not give details of the assaults.

The three alleged victims said they were also assaulted by the two unidentified men at their Catholic school in Melbourne, capital of Victoria state. One estimated that up to 20 boys had been abused by the men, the paper said.

Melbourne Archdiocese vicar general, Monsignor Christopher Prowse, said in a statement Thursday that the church had no knowledge of the allegations and urged the alleged victims to tell police. "The Archdiocese has no knowledge of any allegations of sexual abuse at Phillip Island other than the recent allegation directed towards Archbishop Pell," Prowse said.

Pell stepped aside as archbishop Tuesday after the church announced a man had made allegations of sex abuse against him. Newspapers later identified the alleged victim as a 52-year-old man with a long criminal record who claimed he and a friend were molested at a Catholic camp in 1961 by a man they called "Big George." A support group for victims of sex abuse by priests claimed the Catholic Church had released the details of the alleged victim to tabloid newspapers in a bid to discredit him.

A friend of the alleged victim said he was angry at the way the church had handled the case. "This is Goliath talking down to David," the victim's friend, who did not wish to be named, was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Senior state and federal government members, including Prime Minister John Howard, have thrown their support behind Pell.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus