Pell regrets 'no interest' on allegations

Sky News
March 03, 2016

George Pell has entered his last day in the witness stand at the sex abuse royal commission under pressure.

The Cardinal has been questioned on how he acted when a victim went to him and wanted his help, after reporting abuse from Father Ridsdale at Inglewood.

On Tuesday Cardinal Pell said Father Ridsdale interfering with children at Inglewood was "a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me".

Today the Cardinal said he regretted his statement .

'I was very confused, I responded was badly expressed.'

'I have never enjoyed reading the accounts of these sufferings and I tried to do that only when it was professionally and absolutely appropriate because the behaviour's abhorrent and painful to read about.'

Cardinal Pell told the commission on Wednesday the church in the 1970s and 1980s was a world of crimes and cover ups and he was left in the dark about serious sex abuse allegations against priests and brothers in Ballarat and Melbourne.

But his claims that he was deceived by an archbishop, a bishop and Catholic Education Office officials were challenged by counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC and commissioner Peter McClellan.

Ms Furness 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.

He will face questioning from sex abuse victims' lawyers on his fourth day on the stand in Rome on Thursday.

Cardinal Pell accused former Melbourne archbishop Frank Little and CEO officials of not telling him about accusations made against priest Peter Searson, while on Tuesday he made similar claims against Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns and his knowledge of the crimes of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

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 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 the CEO did not brief him adequately about Searson and that Archbishop Little had also deceived him by not revealing the complaints he had received.

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 hid details from him because he was known to be outspoken and they were 'very keen to keep the lid on the situation'.

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 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 who have travelled to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give his evidence say they've given up on reaching any satisfaction from his evidence and now want to speak to the Pope.

Survivor David Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell had made it clear he did not have the power or the interest to change the structure of the church, 'so we need to speak to the boss'.


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