This makes him the highest-ranking official to ever face an inquiry into the Church’s response to sexual abuse.
Cardinal Pell told the Royal Commission that, as a consultor, he never received information that would indicate that Father Gerald Ridsdale had committed a string of serious offenses.
When former Bishop Ronald Mulkearns of Ballarat moved a pedophile priest from parish to parish in the early 1970s without divulging the underlying reasons for the moves, the appointments implied the bishop had confidence in the priest, Cardinal George Pell told Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Cardinal Pell insisted he was not lying. He repeatedly said he could not recall specific incidents when he was asked about them.
‘We still believe the church doesn’t understand the impact of trauma and what PTSD does to people and I say that because of the way we have been responded to and treated over the years’.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Pell appeared to have lost one of his staunchest defenders this week when Andrew Bolt, a prominent Australian commentator who had written in his defence, said that the cardinal was either a “liar” or “dangerously indifferent to his responsibilities”.
Pell walked in support of Ridsdale into court in 1993, an action, Pell conceded yesterday was “a mistake”.
Students had raised the “problem” of Dowlan with him, and the cardinal spoke to the school chaplain about it, but that was as far as his enquiries went.
Pell said he was “quite content” after being told that the Christian Brothers were dealing with the issue.
He did not think it was unusual or inappropriate when Dowlan was moved to another school. Dowlan was later jailed for abusing 31 boys. The cardinal said: “He just mentioned it casually in conversation, he never asked me to do anything”.
Pell said he could not recall if he had asked the bishop why Risdale was transferred with “somewhat unusual” frequency.
“I didn’t do anything about it”, he said.
The statement also says that Pell has put the survivors in contact with a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, with whom they’re supposed to meet Thursday.
Pell said priests didn’t discuss with him the allegations against Ridsdale, even though they were common knowledge in the towns of Apollo Bay and Inglewood where Ridsdale had been the parish priest.
Sitting alone on a bench in Sydney’s busy financial district, Darren Chalmers is surrounded by dozens of placards condemning the Roman Catholic Church’s response to child sex abuse victims like himself.
Pell on Thursday denied evidence to the commission that he was overheard by an altar boy at a Ballarat funeral in 1983 joking with a fellow priest about Ridsdale was having sex with boys.
Pell said it was a “disastrous coincidence” that five known pedophile Catholic clerics had been operating in Ballarat while he served there as a priest.
Another abuse survivor David Ridsdale, the priest’s nephew, who watched the hearings from Rome said Pell’s testimony of not being interested in Ridsdale’s abusing was also hard for him.
The victims who travelled to Rome had hoped for a meeting with the pope before they return home on Friday, but the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said no papal audience was planned.
An Australian inquiry today heard of a gun-toting paedophile priest who made children kneel between his legs during confession as Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell admitted a time of “crimes and cover-ups” within the Catholic Church.
Pell has already answered questions about these matters at 2013’s Victoria Parliamentary enquiry and again in August 2014 during Royal Commission hearings into the archdiocese of Melbourne.
Pell said he accepted that there had been failure of process in handling complaints against Searson.
“No, not really. Not at all”, Pell said.
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