Cardinal George Pell tells Royal Commission into child sexual abuse he was showing paedophile priest ‘Christian’ kindness
By Andrew Carswell
March 03, 2016
|George Pell (right) arriving at court with Gerald Ridsdale.|
|Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Quirinale hotel in Rome.|
Photo by Ella Pellegrini
|Cardinal George Pell endured five hours in the hot seat.|
|Abuse survivors headed by David Ridsdale (left) and Phil Nagle (right) arrive.|
Photo by David Mirzoeff
CARDINAL George Pell has told the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse why he chose to infamously accompany paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, in full priestly robes, to his first court hearing, earning the scorn of victims.
While admitting he now regretted walking alongside Ridsdale, Pell said he deemed it at the time as the right Christian thing to do; to be kind to the lowest of lows.
“I walked with him following the Christian conviction that it’s an appropriate activity to, to be kind to prisoners,’’ Pell said in his final day in the witness stand.
“As you would be well aware that’s one of the criteria that is listed at the final judgment, the separation of the sheep from the goats is their acts of kindness we do to people, including those who are prisoners and those who are at the bottom of the pile like Ridsdale.
“I had some status as auxiliary bishop and I was asked to appear with the ambition that this would lessen the term of punishment perhaps; lessen his time in gaol.’’
Pell chose not to report a serious allegation that a priest was sexually abusing boys at a Victorian Catholic school, because the student who warned him about the abuse “wasn’t asking me to do anything about it’’.
Pell admitted he should have reported the “very serious” allegation he received that priest Ted Dowlan was “misbehaving with boys’’ to school authorities immediately.
Pell, the third most powerful Catholic in the world and current Vatican treasurer, today confirmed a St Patricks College student complained to him in 1974 about Dowlan’s behaviour, telling the commission he did nothing with the scandalous information, earning a swift rebuke from commissioner Peter McClellan.
“People had a different attitude then. There was no specifics about the activity, how serious it was and the boy wasn’t asking me to do anything about it, but just lamenting and mentioning it,’’ Pell said.
“I didn’t do anything about it. (But) I eventually inquired of the school chaplain.’’
Asked by the commissioner whether he should have taken the allegation to school authorities, Pell admitted: “with the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have, should have done more’’.
Dowlan went on to sexually abuse more than a dozen students up till 1985.
While he confirmed that student’s confession, he strongly denied an allegation from a former student who told the commission last year that he went to see Pell at the school’s presbytery in 1973 as a 14-year-old to complain his brother was being molested and physically abused by Dowlan.
“Pell became angry,’’ the man told the commission. “He told me to go away and shut the door on me.’’
Pell said that encounter never happened, was a “fantasy”, and even perhaps starker, was nothing but false evidence.
“Even the language that I was alleged to have used is ridiculous. The suggestion that I would speak like that to a young person in distress is absolutely false,’’ the Cardinal responded.
It was a similar response when Pell was asked to recount his conversation with David Ridsdale who called the-then auxiliary bishop in 1993 to complain he was sexually abused by paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, his uncle.
Ridsdale told the commission in December that upon his confession and request that the matter be dealt with privately, Pell attempted to bribe him not to go to the police, with the victim claiming he told the bishop “f*ck you, George”.
“It’s implausible because I was an auxiliary bishop and I had no access to money or no access to significant resources … and it’s implausible because, of course, the attempt to bribe someone is criminal,’’ he said.
“I spoke to him at some length. He did not ask me to do anything. If he had asked me to do any one or a number of things, I certainly would have done so.
“(Ridsdale swearing at me) certainly did not happen, because I would certainly remember it. I don’t think in fact it’s ever happened to my face in 50 years of priesthood and, secondly, I would have been absolutely shocked in that coming, being said to me by a person who phoned me as a friend. That part of the conversation, I’m afraid to say that that’s just not true.’’
Ridsdale went to the police a few days later to report his uncle’s evil deeds.
Pell also denied evidence presented to the commission from a former alter boy that he overheard Pell telling a priest that “I think Gerry has been rooting boys again”.
“The allegation that has been put is demonstrably false,’’ Pell said.
The Cardinal’s weeklong deflection to his then superiors was also evident yesterday when he agreed with a lawyer’s submissions that victim Peter Watson would still be alive today if the church had conducted a proper inquiry into claims he was abused by priest Paul Ryan at the Ararat parish.
Peter took his own life in 1999.
“Yes a proper investigation would have helped him. The responsibility lay with the person who didn’t act when he should have, and that would certainly seem to have been Bishop Ronald Mulkearns.’’