Cardinal George Pell was "in the loop" over serious complaints about pedophile priest Peter Searson after worried parents wrote to education authorities, the child abuse royal commission has heard.
Cardinal Pell said he would have been aware of concerns raised by parents from the Victorian parish of Doveton in a 1991 letter to the Catholic Education Office that said Searson was going into the boys' toilets, watching boys in the shower and taking children into the presbytery without permission.
He said he did not investigate the matter because it was the responsibility of the CEO and the Vicar General.
"If they'd asked my opinion I would have given it," he said.
He agreed that he was "in the loop as far as knowledge of Father Searson being a risk to children" but said the issue was the level of risk and "just what could be done within church and state law".
Commissioner Peter McClellan said the allegations in the letter were "extraordinary" and occurred in a school for which Cardinal Pell, as an auxiliary bishop in the Melbourne diocese, had responsibility.
Commissioner McClellan asked Cardinal Pell if he had responsibility to ensure the problems were investigated, regardless of who had formal authority.
Cardinal Pell said there was an investigation by the CEO and by lawyers and he was "satisfied that the matter was in hand".