Incurious George: Pell heard talk of sex abuse by priests, but ‘rarely indulged’ rumours

The Guardian

David Marr
Monday 29 February 2016

George Pell has shifted ground. The news from his latest stint in the box at the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse is that he wasn’t deaf and he wasn’t blind back in the old days in Ballarat.

The cardinal took no body blows. He endured interrogation by Gail Furness SC, counsel assisting the commission, with almost perfect calm. His energy didn’t fail him. In his leathery voice he answered over and again, “That is correct.”

So much of his testimony was familiar. He expressed his regrets. He condemned the failings of the church which he put down to original sin rather than “the divine structure of the church that goes back to the New Testament”.

But he brought something new to the Albergo Quirinale: admissions that he had heard rumours about priests abusing children in the diocese of Ballarat. He had heard complaints. He even admitted knowing about priests kissing and swimming naked with children.

He was not entirely out of the loop.

Since his last appearance in the box, Pell has engaged a team of first-rate lawyers. Perhaps they’ve encouraged him to reflect more deeply on his years in Ballarat when he returned from Oxford with a great career before him in the church.

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