Pell says should have done more on abuse

By Peter Trute
7 News
March 02, 2016

Cardinal George Pell is set to face a third day of examination by the child abuse royal commission.

George Pell says he was deceived about pedophile priests in "a world of crimes and cover-ups", telling the child abuse royal commission he didn't know about abuses that occurred in Victoria when he was a priest and bishop.

For a second day, Cardinal Pell said he was deceived by church officials including former archbishop of Melbourne Frank Little, saying they hid their knowledge of complaints against priests and brothers in Victoria in the 1970s and 1980s.

But counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, described his claim to have been deceived by at least four people across two dioceses as implausible and extraordinary.

The cardinal said he was telling the truth.

"This was an extraordinary world - a world of crimes and cover-ups and people who did not want the status quo to be disturbed," Cardinal Pell replied.

The commission heard that a delegation of teachers from the Melbourne parish of Doveton went to Cardinal Pell - then an auxiliary bishop - in November 1989 about parish priest Peter Searson harassing children, staff and parents, showing children a body in a coffin, committing acts of animal cruelty and unnecessarily using the children's toilets.

Cardinal Pell said he sought a briefing from the Catholic Education Office (CEO), which he realised much later had deceived him by not revealing all the information it had about Searson.

Archbishop Little had also deceived him by not revealing the complaints he had received about Searson.

Ms Furness suggested the cardinal's claims about not being properly briefed were "completely implausible" because the education office had acted to pass on complaints to other senior figures.

"I can only tell you the truth," the cardinal replied.

Cardinal Pell said he believed the CEO did what it did because he was the "new boy on the block", known to be outspoken and they were "very keen to keep the lid on the situation".

His evidence about the Searson case followed his statement to the commission on Tuesday that he had been grossly deceived by the former archbishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns about the action of another notorious pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, in the 1970s and 1980s.

"It's a mystery but in both cases for some reason, they were covering up," Cardinal Pell told commissioner Peter McClellan.

Cardinal Pell has maintained he did not know about pedophile priests in Ballarat, where he was a priest and advisor to Bishop Mulkearns in the 1970s, and the episcopal vicar for education in diocese schools.

He told the commission he had heard "unfortunate rumours" about a Christian Brother, Edward Dowlan, who abused children at schools in the diocese but said he was not concerned when Dowlan was moved from one school to another because he did not know the exact accusations against him.

"More than 40 years ago I did not think that was unusual or inappropriate," he said.

Survivors of sexual abuse by clergy have travelled to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give his evidence via video link back to the commission hearing room in Sydney.

The group had sought a meeting with Cardinal Pell but have now said they will instead seek an audience with Pope Francis.

Survivors group member David Ridsdale, who was abused by his pedophile priest uncle Gerald Ridsdale, told reporters that Cardinal Pell was "giving us nothing" and had "turned his back on us".

Mr Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell had made it clear he did not have the power to change the structure of the church, "so we need to speak to the boss".

Cardinal Pell said he could meet with survivors on Thursday at the conclusion of his evidence and he hoped they would "contribute to healing".


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