Cardinal Pell had evidence to act on paedophile priest, royal commission counsel say

The Guardian

Melissa Davey
Sunday 30 October 2016

Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, had enough evidence to conclude that serious action was needed against a paedophile priest who worked under him at the Ballarat archdiocese, counsel assisting the royal commission have said.

During his evidence before the child sex abuse royal commission in March, Pell said investigating Peter Searson was not his responsibility because he believed the Catholic Education Office and the Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns, were handling allegations that Searson was abusing children.

But in a submission published on the commission’s website on Monday, counsel assisting the royal commission Gail Furness SC and Stephen Free concluded: “It was incumbent on Cardinal Pell, having regard to his responsibilities as Auxiliary Bishop, including for the welfare of children in the parish, to take such action as he could to advocate that Searson be removed or suspended, or, at least, that a thorough investigation be undertaken.”

Pell gave evidence that he was handed a list of incidents and grievances about Searson in 1989. These should have been “sufficient that he ought reasonably have concluded that more serious action needed to be taken in relation to Searson”, counsel assisting wrote.

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