Pell says other clergy deceived him about paedophile priest

Pell says other clergy deceived him about paedophile priest

Cardinal George Pell says the Catholic Church leadership failed to protect children in a Victorian diocese, but he accepts no responsibility for moving a paedophile priest.

Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal Pell has faced a second day of giving evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.


It is his third royal-commission appearance from Rome via video link because he has been deemed too ill to fly to Australia.


But a number of Australian survivors of child sex abuse are in Rome to be in the room while he gives evidence.


Cardinal George Pell says he was told lies by a bishop and priests who knew about the child sexual-abuse crimes of a fellow clergyman.


Cardinal Pell says he was never told Father Gerald Ridsdale was moved on to new parishes in the Victorian diocese of Ballarat in the 1970s because of paedophilia.


He has told the child-abuse royal commission other priests and bishops knew of repeated complaints against Ridsdale.


But Cardinal Pell, then a Ballarat priest, says he did not know about the allegations.

He says it was unacceptable that Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns moved Ridsdale between parishes, including to Inglewood in 1975, after receiving a victim's complaint.


"(It's unacceptable) because of the risk it presented to children in Inglewood, and that was exacerbated by the fact it doesn't seem as though any effort was made to withdraw Ridsdale, at least for a period, for counselling or advice or help."


The royal commission has heard another complaint about Ridsdale was made in Inglewood and his offending was common knowledge in the parish.


But Cardinal Pell maintains he did not know himself.


"I didn't know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn't. It's a sad story, and it wasn't of much interest to me." (Reaction from observers ...)


After drawing gasps from some observers in the room for saying the issue was not of much interest to him at the time, the Cardinal went on to clarify his response.


"The suffering, of course, was real, and I very much regret that, but I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils that Risdale had perpetrated."


Questioned further by commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan, Cardinal Pell insisted Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and senior cleric Monsignor Leo Fiscalini deceived him.


He says it happened at meetings where moving Ridsdale was discussed.


(McClellan:) "Cardinal, as I understand your evidence, the consequence is you say the Bishop deceived you, is that right?"

(Pell:) "Unfortunately, correct."

(McClellan:) "And, also, Monsignor Fiscalini deceived you as well?"

(Pell:) "Yes."


Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness described to Cardinal Pell Bishop Mulkearns' alleged reaction when one woman complained to him about Ridsdale.


(Furness:) "What do you say about Bishop Mulkearns' response according to BAI? She said, 'He just sat there and stared at us.'"

(Pell:) "Yes, well, that's extraordinary and reprehensible."

(Furness:) "Do you think Bishop Mulkearns is just one bad apple,* as it were, within the Catholic Church as a bishop by conducting himself in the way that he has until this day?"

(Pell:) "Unfortunately, I would have to say that I can't nominate another bishop whose actions are so grave and inexplicable."

Abuse survivors say it is unbelievable a man of the Cardinal's intelligence was unaware of a paedophile priest's offences when two Victorian communities and local clergy knew.


Phil Nagle is among a group of survivors hearing Cardinal Pell's evidence in Rome.


"There was certainly no truth and honesty in the way he (Cardinal Pell) answered those questions. I think everyone could see that. He also acknowledged that he did know that Gerald Ridsdale was moved because of homosexuality. And I think the other thing that he said that I found very interesting was that he would do -- and the Church would do -- whatever they could do to minimise any impact of any allegations or scandalous things that were alleged against the Church."


Justice McClellan warned the Cardinal he would be culpable if the commission found he knew of Ridsdale offending at the time.


Earlier in the day, Cardinal Pell said he has the full backing of Pope Francis after having met with him.

Cardinal Pell will return to the witness box tomorrow morning, Australian time.

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