Cardinal George Pell denies lying about being told nothing about the real reason Victorian pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale was being moved.
Cardinal Pell said he would have remembered if pedophilia was mentioned as the reason for Ridsdale being moved at meetings of then Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns' advisers in the 1970s and 1980s.
A victims' barrister Jim Shaw told Cardinal Pell: "I suggest very directly you are lying about this to protect your own reputation."
Cardinal Pell said: "I say that that is completely untrue and unjustified by any evidence. It is a baseless allegation."
Bishop Mulkearns knew about abuse complaints against Ridsdale when he moved him between parishes in Victoria's Ballarat diocese.
Cardinal Pell agreed with child abuse royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan that the true reason for Ridsdale's moves was his sexual activity with children.
"We didn't know the true reason then," Cardinal Pell said.
Justice McClellan said: "If we accept your evidence, we would have to come to the view that the true reason was never mentioned but false reasons were."
Cardinal Pell replied: "That is correct. The true reason was never mentioned, certainly."
Earlier this week Cardinal Pell said there was an initial predisposition not to believe children complaining about abuse until about the late 1980s and agreed the instinct was to protect the church from shame.
"There was a predisposition in those early times not to believe it," he said on Thursday.
When Mr Shaw said if it would be difficult even now for a child to come forward with an abuse allegation, Cardinal Pell remarked it was "much less difficult than it was".
"Yes, it's still difficult," he said.
Mr Shaw suggested the predisposition was effectively saying child sexual abuse by religious clergy did not exist in the 1970s and 1980s, but Cardinal Pell said it was saying nothing of the sort.
"What it is implying is that people were less ready to believe that then than they are now," Cardinal Pell said.
Mr Shaw suggested the church cared more about itself as an institution than it did about children entrusted to its care.
Cardinal Pell said: "The church too often did not care adequately for the survivors and children."