Pell's knowledge of priest under spotlight

9 News
April 27, 2016

The former deputy director of the Catholic Education Office says he was shocked and angry when he heard Cardinal George Pell say he was deceived by the CEO during his time in Melbourne.

Education consultant Peter Annett was deputy director of the Archdiocese of Melbourne's education office when Dr Pell was auxiliary bishop with responsibility for education.

On Wednesday he told the child abuse royal commission at one stage in the late 80s a number one priority for the office was that notorious pedophile priest Peter Searson be removed from the parish of Doveton.

Mr Annett is one of four former education officers responding to evidence given by Cardinal Pell from Rome in March that the CEO withheld information about Searson.

"I would have thought our staff would be completely frank with Bishop Pell and be cheering from the rooftops if he was able to take action," he said.

The commission is investigating the responses of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne to complaints of child sexual abuse. This is its third hearing.

In March Dr Pell said he was probably deceived by the Catholic Education Office because they knew he would take decisive action and not put up with the status quo.

Mr Annett, who was giving evidence for the first time, said his immediate reaction to what Dr Pell was saying about the inaction of the education office was shock.

"I was disappointed and perhaps angry, but certainly very disappointed," said Mr Annett, who later became director of the Catholic Education office in Canberra.

Earlier on Wednesday the commission heard from retired priest Thomas Doyle who was director of the CEO for the Melbourne Archdiocese for 23 years until 2002.

Monsignor Doyle said he thought what Cardinal Pell said was quite wrong.

"I was disappointed he said those things about the Catholic Education Office because I don't think they were true."

He said the officer who briefed the then bishop was Norm Lalor who was honest and efficient.

The commission has heard previously that the CEO did not get Peter Searson removed even when Graeme Sleeman, headmaster of the Holy Family primary school in Doveton, resigned in 1986 in an attempt to force its hand.

The commission has also heard that Frank Little, Archbishop of Melbourne at the time ignored repeated requests from the education office to do something about Searson.

Auxiliary bishops such as George Pell had no executive power to act independently, the commission has been told.



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