Cardinal George Pell has admitted to the Royal Commission if a proper investigation had been launched into the crimes of pedophile priest Father Paul David Ryan that one of his victims who committed suicide might still be alive today.
It was put to Cardinal Pell the Church had ample time to address the case of Fr. Ryan, who didn't face court until 2006, yet had abused children in Ararat throughout the 1990s.
Peter Watson, who was one of Ryan's victims, successfully took his own life on what was his third attempt to kill himself, as a result of the trauma from his abuse in the '90s.
"Peter Watson could have been alive (if the Church had intervened)?" the lawyer suggested to Pell.
"Yes, a proper investigation could have helped impede that," Cardinal Pell replied.
The lawyer also put to Cardinal Pell that, over four days of testimony, he had been lying to the Commission to protect his own reputation, which he rejected as "completely untrue."
In what was a frantic, furious and damaging opening session, Cardinal Pell admitted that he did nothing to investigate an abuse claim made against Father Ted Dowlan by a St Patrick's schoolboy in 1973.
Australia's highest-ranking Catholic has always denied the claim, which was made by Peter Blenkiron, one of the survivors who travelled to Rome to watch the testimony.
The explosive admission may prove the first domino in the cardinal's undoing after a morning that saw a succession of lawyers go after him with especially aggressive questions.
"(Blenkiron) said something like 'Dowlan is misbehaving with boys'," Pell admitted.
A lawyer asked Pell whether he should have done something about it straight away.
"With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more," replied Pell.
"I didn't do anything about it," he said. "I eventually inquired with the school chaplain."
But Cardinal Pell went on to say that he thought the Christian Brothers would handle the complaint.
"I had no idea that the Christian Brothers were covering up in the way in which it's now apparent," Cardinal Pell said.
"Dowlan went onto sexually abuse children in a teaching capacity all the way through to 1985, dozens of them," the lawyer told him. "Do you understand that?"
"I do," the cardinal admitted.
"You could have done something which would have put a stop to that potentially, couldn't you?"
"With due respect, I think that's a vast overstatement," Cardinal Pell said. "I did take the opportunity to ascertain the reliability of the rumors. I was told there was something in them and that it was being dealt with."
Amid calls for his resignation or intervention by the Pope to sack him, Cardinal Pell said while he's never suggested he was the target of a witch hunt, "the idea has occurred to me".
But he did himself no favours when he stated early in this morning's session that the "aggregation" of pedophiles in Ballarat was a "disastrous coincidence".
Cardinal Pell has faced a succession of lawyers representing victims this morning who have not previously questioned him in around 12 hours of video testimony from the hotel in Rome.
Earlier today, Cardinal Pell conceded that he may have been contacted about the prospect of furnishing Gerald Ridsdale with a reference in April 1993, ahead of the pedophile's trial.
Cardinal Pell said that no such reference was produced, but acknowledged the influence he had as an auxiliary bishop.
He accompanied Ridsdale to court in May of 1993, where the pedophile plead guilty to nine child sex offences. He was sentenced to three months jail.
The hearing continues.