"BLOKE from Ballarat" Cardinal George Pell Sits down with Child Sex Abuse Survivors
March 5, 2016
Cardinal George Pell was just a "bloke from Ballarat" when he sat down with child sex abuse survivors in a Rome hotel to discuss their concerns, survivors spokesman David Ridsdale says.
And he says the cardinal is starting to deliver a little action rather than just words to help survivors, with an offer on Friday of the resources of the Australian Catholic University.
But Mr Ridsdale, whose pedophile priest uncle Gerald Ridsdale abused him as a boy in the Ballarat diocese in Victoria, says there's a long way to go before survivors will be prepared to stand united with the cardinal.
The survivors' group flew to Rome to see Australia's senior Catholic cleric give evidence by videolink to the child abuse royal commission sitting in Sydney.
The group wants to see change in the church to improve redress for survivors of clergy abuse and implement systems to ensure such abuse can't happen again.
"We want to be the last survivors," Mr Ridsdale told reporters in Rome.
Most of the survivors who flew to Rome were abused by Ridsdale, Christian Brothers and others in Ballarat in the 1970s and 1980s when Cardinal Pell served there as a senior Catholic education official.
In his evidence to the commission the cardinal admitted making mistakes and regretted putting the church before victims at the time.
But his denials that he knew of of Ridsdale's offending and his blaming of other clergy for cover-ups and scandals angered survivors.
Despite the rift, Cardinal Pell met with survivors early on Thursday then read a statement on hotel writing paper saying he was committed to helping them in their goals, including exploring the possibility of setting up of a research and healing centre in Ballarat.
Mr Ridsdale said the group got the level playing field they wanted in the meeting.
"He was a bloke from Ballarat, everyone in the room called him George. There was no power difference and that made the difference.."
But Mr Ridsdale said more action was needed from the cardinal.
"One day the town of Ballarat may welcome him back, but that's not yet."
He said the survivors' group wanted Ballarat to be a model for child sex abuse redress and healing that could be followed around Australia.
"It shouldn't be us fixing this, it is an Australia-wide problem, it wasn't just the Catholic Church, it was everywhere.
"We need the government as well as the churches to stand by our sides, we shouldn't have had to scream for help."
Mr Ridsdale said his group had a scheme that was "better than handing broken men a bunch of money so they can drink themselves to death".
He said a redress scheme was needed that recognised the reality of sex abuse trauma and was based on benchmarks such as redress for injured soldiers or accident victims.
Most of the survivors' group flew out of Rome on Friday.