Monsignor Denies George Pell Kept in Dark about Alleged Paedophile Peter Searson
By James Hancock
April 27, 2016
|PHOTO: Searson was accused of sexually abusing children from the Doveton parish.|
A former director of Catholic Education Melbourne has firmly denied claims by Cardinal George Pell that management deceived him about the actions of accused paedophile priest Peter Searson.
Monsignor Thomas Doyle was one of four former officers of the Catholic education office to give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse today.
Earlier this year while speaking from Rome, Cardinal Pell accused management of the Melbourne Archdiocese of keeping him in the dark about allegations against Searson.
The inquiry heard the Doveton parish priest was accused of sexually abusing children from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Searson died in 2009 without conviction for child sexual abuse.
Cardinal Pell said he was poorly briefed by the Catholic education office and the former archbishop of Melbourne, Frank Little, in 1989, while Pell was auxiliary bishop of Melbourne.
I would have thought that our staff would be completely frank with Bishop Pell and be cheering from the rooftops if he was able to take action.
Peter Annett, Educational consultant
He suggested management deceived him out of fear he would have asked "inconvenient questions" and acted against Searson.
Monsignor Doyle today denied the claims and said there was no reason why Cardinal Pell would not have been informed.
"I thought he was quite wrong," he said.
"I think that I was quite disappointed that he said those things about the Catholic education office because I don't think they were quite true."
He expressed confidence in the staff of the Catholic education office and said he was unaware of a reluctance to be frank with Cardinal Pell.
"I certainly would have disagreed with him [Pell] in terms of saying we were out to defend the archbishop," he said.
"I would have been quite frank with the bishop [Pell]."
Monsignor Doyle said he would have welcomed assistance from Cardinal Pell to get then Archbishop Little to take action against Searson.
"We'd been trying for a long time, it was over many years, to get action," he said.
"I think we would have welcomed ... some assistance to get Archbishop Little to take action."
Staff unable to get Little to act against Searson
Former educational consultant Peter Annett said there was no reason for staffers to deceive Cardinal Pell.
He said he personally believed that children were at risk from Searson and the main goal of the office was to keep the priest away from children.
"I would have thought that our staff would be completely frank with Bishop Pell and be cheering from the rooftops if he was able to take action," Mr Annett said
He said it was widely known that Searson had sexually abused children.
"All senior staff in the Catholic Education office knew that Father Searson was a potential paedophile," Mr Annett said
He said staff were not able to convince then Archbishop Little to address the problem.
Another former educational consultant, Allan Dooley, backed up the evidence of the other witnesses, saying he was never asked to withhold information from Cardinal Pell.
Mr Dooley said he also wanted decisive action against Searson.