What a disastrous media conference, where should we start? Some headlines:
1. Tone is absolutely critical. Whatever you say, if the tone is bad you fail. The start of an inquiry is not the time to get all defensive and start talking about media smears and victimisation etc. If you get defensive many (probably most) people suspect you're covering something up. Getting defensive at the start of an inquiry into your activities only confirms these suspicions. Pell should have tried for an open, confident tone by arguing that the Church had made improvements but would welcome any suggestions for further improvements that might come from the Royal Commission.
2. Respect for the victims doesn't extend to speaking on their behalf especially when the victims seem to be universally in favour of the Royal Commission and you're trying to argue that it will make things worse for at least of some of them. This is just patronising and, again, sounds like you're hiding something.
3. Don't blame the media, especially not at a media conference. No-one, including journalists, goes 'oh yeah fair cop gov it's our fault' in the face of a blatant blame-shifting exercise. Again just sounds like you're ducking and weaving.
Lots of mistakes, what should Pell have done?
The key in a situation like this is to take control - go front foot not back foot.
You do that by being positive and constructive. You've got to make it something you're doing to make things better, not something that is being done to you.
Pell should have set out a suggested constructive agenda (in broad terms) for the Royal Commission, while arguing that he also wants to see victims organisation playing a major role in designing the Commission's terms of reference and processes. A constructive agenda would give the media something to cover, other than your own discomfort.
And you've got to stop talking when you've done that. Journos will try and get you to go negative, as soon as you do you bury your positive story.