Former defender Andrew Bolt turns on Cardinal George Pell: Conservative commentator says high-ranking Catholic has ‘failed in his job’ and ‘stained his reputation forever’
By Belinda Grant Geary And Lucy Thackray
March 02, 2016
|Mr Bolt, who was sent to Rome to cover the Royal Commission into Insitutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, had previously called the coverage on Cardinal Pell 'shameful, disgusting and frightening'|
|But after the Cardinal described the prolific sexual abuse of children at a Victorian parish 'a sad story' that 'wasn't of much interest' to him, Bolt proclaimed he had 'stained his reputation forever'|
|Bolt cites a shocking instance where a 14-year-old boy, Paul Levey(centre), who he incorrectly named Paul Levi, was allowed to live with the pedophile|
|The commission heard that this occured after parents had complained to Dr Pell's superior, bishop Ronald Mulkearns(pictured), about his unsavoury behaviour|
|Bolt went on to assert that the best that Dr Pell's 'defenders' could argue is that the Cardinal had been happy to blindly follow orders and not seek out abused children who desperately needed his care (Pell pictured with Risdale)|
|He goes on to explain the systematic failure of church leaders to act when Father Gerald Risdale(pictured) was moved from parish to parish after being identified by members of the church and community as a child molester in the 1970s and 1980s|
Commentator Andrew Bolt - who previously referred to Cardinal George Pell as the 'victim of a vicious witch hunt' - appears to have changed his tune, slamming the church official for failing to protect vulnerable children who were abused at the hands of a notorious pedophile priest.
Mr Bolt, who was sent to Rome to cover the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, had previously called the coverage on Cardinal Pell 'shameful, disgusting and frightening'.
But after the Cardinal described the prolific sexual abuse of children at a Victorian parish 'a sad story' that 'wasn't of much interest' to him, Bolt proclaimed he had 'stained his reputation forever'.
'His fate was sealed. That quote will be hung around Pell’s neck forever. The priest who went by the book, not the heart,' Bolt wrote in an article published in the Herald Sun on Wednesday.
He goes on to explain the systematic failure of church leaders to act when Father Gerald Risdale was moved from parish to parish after being identified by members of the church and community as a child molester in the 1970s and 1980s.
The conservative commentator, who has reportedly secured an exclusive interview with the Cardinal, questioned if Dr Pell, who he labels the 'prince of the Catholic Church', had been 'dangerously indifferent to his responsibilities' or simply a liar who is now protecting himself.
Bolt cites a shocking instance where a 14-year-old boy, Paul Levey, who he incorrectly named Paul Levi, was allowed to live with the pedophile after the parents of an abuse victim had complained to Dr Pell's superior, bishop Ronald Mulkearns, about his unsavoury behaviour.
He went on to assert that the best that Dr Pell's 'defenders' could argue is that the Cardinal had been happy to blindly follow orders and not seek out abused children who desperately needed his care.
'How Pell’s supporters would have choked on one of his final answers yesterday about the responsibility of priests to the children being molested by his colleagues.
“He has a moral responsibility to do what is appropriate to his position.”
'Really? Nothing more?,' Bolt asked.
In February, the conservative columnist penned an article on Dr Pell for the Herald Sun claiming that he had been vilified by the people who were victims of sexual abuse as children in the Ballarat diocese and those who defended their right to be heard, like comedian Tim Minchin.
'People pretending to be moral have competed with each other to slime Pell as the defender of paedophiles, if not a paedophile himself,' he wrote.
'There is no mercy and no attention to the facts. There is just the joy of hatred,' he added.
He went on to say that the Cardinal had been a 'target for the Left' as he is conservative and had defended traditional marriage and attacked global warning 'alarmism'.
Bolt, who reported from Rome, also used his time on air as a 'Sky News contributor' to point out 'incorrect allegations' against the Pell from victims and relatives of victims, stating that Dr Pell needs 'more benefit of the doubt.'
'We have to remember that in these cases of these priests we're talking about, (Pell) was not in the position of authority over them, he was not in the direct line of communication. There are allegations that some people told him but at least three or four of those allegations are clearly not right,' Bolt said on Sky News.
'He was in Oxford for a year when one victim's brother said he warned Pell… There's a lot of claims but I'm not sure there's the smoking gun about his direct knowledge.'
'I think George Pell's problem is that he's the most senior Catholic around. He's a tough, tall figure with a booming voice - he looks a perfect villain in a sense.'
'One would hope that this inquiry can go forward in the spirit of actually finding the truth, not being a witch hunt and perhaps giving George Pell more benefit of the doubt than a lot of media has given him.'
Social media has responded with bewilderment at the choice to send Bolt to Rome.
'Miranda Devine defending George Pell and Andrew Bolt reporting from Rome. What kind of fresh media hell is this?' tweeted Em Rusciano.
'Whaaaaat? Andrew Bolt is in Rome reporting on the George Pell headings? He's on Sky right now. Breathtaking bias,' tweeted Bevan Shields.
'Thank goodness Andrew Bolt is there in Rome covering George Pell #Spindoctorattheready,' tweeted Seb Lacey.
Cardinal Pell is appearing via video link due to his ill health and on Tuesday admitted the offences of Australia's worst pedophile priest were sad, but not of much interest to him.
During a day of tough questioning before the child abuse royal commission, the cardinal repeatedly told the hearing he knew nothing of the predatory activities of notorious pedophile Father Gerald Ridsdale around Ballarat in the 1970s and 1980s.
'It's a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me,' the cardinal said via video link from the Rome hotel where he is giving his evidence.
'I had no reason to turn my mind to the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated.'
The statement drew incredulous laughter from survivors of sexual abuse who have travelled from Australia to witness Cardinal Pell giving evidence.
He laid blame on former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, saying his then superior had known of the complaints about Ridsdale interfering with children but had lied to him about them.
Abuse survivor Phil Nagle said outside the hearing that Ridsdale's offending was well-known in two Victorian communities.
'Cardinal Pell is a very astute, very bright man, so how can he say he didn't know?' he said.
Ridsdale's nephew and victim, David Ridsdale, said Cardinal Pell was 'either culpable or an ignorant buffoon'.
'I don't believe he's the latter and we have no evidence of the former so we have to wait for the commission to do its job,' he said in Rome.
Mr Ridsdale said the survivors weren't convinced by the evidence.
'We feel like we've watched a performance rather than evidence,' Mr Ridsdale said.
The cardinal resumed his evidence in Rome on Wednesday morning.