Cardinal George Pell denies allegations of involvement in abuse cover-up

By Nick Toscano And Jane Lee
Sydney Morning Herald
May 21, 2015

Cardinal George Pell has rejected claims he was involved in an alleged sex abuse cover-up.

[with video]

Cardinal George Pell has strongly denied being involved in an alleged sex abuse cover-up within the Catholic church after a royal commission heard he tried to bribe a victim to keep quiet.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, Cardinal Pell renewed his rejection of claims that he helped move disgraced paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale between parishes and tried to pay one of his victims to remain silent.

He also denied ignoring another victim's claim that a now-convicted sex offender was abusing children at St Patrick's College in Ballarat.

Royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said on Wednesday that Cardinal Pell would be required to respond to the allegations.

Cardinal Pell, now finance chief at the Vatican, chose to release a statement online later that night saying he had already addressed many of the claims levelled against him in a Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2013, and he stood by those statements.

"Over the last 24 hours, I have been accused of being complicit in the moving of a known paedophile, of ignoring a victim's complaint and of bribery," he said.

"These matters again require an immediate response and it is important to correct the record, particularly given the false and misleading headlines."

In evidence at the royal commission in Ballarat on Wednesday, David Ridsdale, told of being abused by his uncle, Gerald, from when he was 11 years old. Mr Ridsdale said he called then Bishop Pell to tell him about the abuse in February 1993. But he said Cardinal Pell asked him "what it will take to keep you quiet" and began talking about the things he will need to buy for his growing family, such as a car.

Another survivor, Timothy Green, told the inquiry Cardinal Pell was dismissive when he reported that Brother Edward Dowlan was abusing boys at St Patrick's College in Ballarat, claiming he said "don't be ridiculous" and left the room.

But in his statement, Cardinal Pell said he had no recollection of having a conversation with Mr Green, more than 40 years ago.

"To the best of my belief this conversation did not happen," he said.

Cardinal Pell added that he had been "horrified once again" by survivors' accounts of abuse, describing the suicide of so many victims as an enormous tragedy and the crimes committed against them as "profoundly evil and completely repugnant".

Earlier in the day, both survivors recounted Cardinal Pell's rejections of their claims. Yet lawyer for church witnesses, Peter Gray, SC, declined to challenge either claim in cross-examination when invited to do so by Justice McClellan.

Despite being pressed to do so if necessary, as the Commissioners would be investigating the claims, Mr Gray said they would not tell one of the witnesses, Timothy Green, that he was not to be believed. He cited a practice guideline for the Royal Commission, which allows parties to contradict witnesses without raising this in cross-examination first.

Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness, SC, later reminded Mr Gray of another part of the practice guideline, which states: "The Royal Commission expects that, where it is contended that deliberately false evidence has been given, or that there has been a mistake on the part of the witness on a significant issue, the grounds of such contention will be put."


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