Cardinal Pell’s ignorance of abuse ‘unfathomable’, says victim

Daily Advertiser
March 1, 2016

Paul Levey is comforted by supporters outside the hearing in Rome

A victim who was raped daily while living with notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale at a presbytery in Mortlake says he finds it unfathomable that Cardinal George Pell didn't know he was being sexually abused.

Paul Levey was sent to live with Ridsdale in the Mortlake presbytery after his parents separated when he was 14 in 1982. 

In a harrowing statement presented to the hearing Mr Levey said he was "sexually abused all the time just about every day". 

"I had my own bedroom at the presbytery but that was just a front. I always slept in Ridsdale's room where there were two beds. No-one else lived in the presbytery," it read.

Australia's most senior Catholic accepted no responsibility for Ridsdale's offending telling the inquiry he had no knowledge of his crimes.

Cardinal Pell said Ridsdale's crimes were a "sad story" but were "not of much interest" to him at the time.

"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 Ridsdale had perpetrated," he said. 

Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and was among a number of clergy who knew who Ridsdale had a boy living with him but failed to intervene.

In December, former Brisbane Bishop Brian Finnigan told a private hearing the he knew a boy was living at the presbytery with Ridsdale, but told the public hearing he only found out later.

Cardinal Pell's evidence contradicted a statement from another Ballarat diocese priest who told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in December Ridsdale’s sexual behaviour was raised at a high-level church meeting in 1982. 

Father Eric Bryant said problems managing Ridsdale were raised by Bishop Mulkearns at the meeting of seven priests including Cardinal Pell.

Fr Bryant said Bishop Mulkearns told the priests; “We’ve got a problem with homosexuality in the diocese.”

He said it was later decided to shift Ridsdale from the parish of Mortlake.

Cardinal Pell said he had no recollection of Ridsdale's sexual behaviour being raised at any high level church meeting where it was decided to shift him from parish enabling him to continue offending for decades.

"I knew nothing about his paedophilia," he said. “I knew he was a somewhat difficult person and obviously he had been shifted about quite a bit."

During intense cross-examination, Commission Chair Justice Peter McClellan suggested to Cardinal Pell that given he have no recollection of what happened at the meeting, it was reasonable to assume he was told.

The inquiry heard, Cardinal Pell's cousin, Father Henry Nolan, knew Ridsdale had the boy there and raised concerns it was inappropriate and had him taken away.

The Cardinal laid the blame for the rampant sexual abuse of children across Ballarat on dying Bishop Mulkearns despite being challenged that his claim of ignorance was "implausible".

Mr Levey was hunched over with his head in his hands as Cardinal Pell gave his evidence.

He and was comforted by his partner and other survivors who wrapped their arms around him.

Emotional survivors gripped their arms around Mr Levey's shoulders as he addressed the media outside the hotel.

Mr Levey said his mother had called the Bishop Mulkearns, multiple times requesting he be removed out of Ridsdale's care but she was repeatedly ignored.

"I can't believe that those meetings never discussed his paedophilia," he said. "There is no way Cardinal Pell couldn't have known what was going on."

Mr Levey said it was clear Ridsdale was shifted from Mortlake for sexually abusing children but Cardinal Pell denied he had any knowledge of Ridsdale's offending.

Mr Levey told Fairfax Media he had battled drug and alcohol addictions and had made multiple suicide attempts.

He said was still crippled by flashbacks and nightmares of his time living with Ridsdale.

"I have drunk alcohol in order to sleep most nights and I have only recently stopped as I am taking sleeping medication instead," he said.

"I wouldn't be here without the support of my partner Michele and my daughters."

Survivor David Ridsdale, who was also molested by his uncle, voiced his frustration at the Cardinal's evidence. 

"It beggars belief that he could have said he wasn't interested in hearing about the crimes of my uncle," Mr Ridsdale said.

"We are speaking of moral leaders of towns and cities, and for them to have no interest in such behaviour seems remarkable."


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