Ridsdale doesn't remember George Pell

By Megan Neil
May 27, 2015

THEY shared a presbytery and had enough of a relationship for George Pell to accompany his fellow priest to court, yet Gerald Ridsdale has little recollection of the cardinal.

THAT Australia's worst pedophile priest has no memory of living with the nation's most senior Catholic figure has angered victims, even though Cardinal Pell now says he's prepared to appear in person before the child sex abuse royal commission's Ballarat inquiry.
In his own much-anticipated appearance, Ridsdale maintained he remembered little of his former house mate.

Ridsdale told the commission he can't remember any of the priests who lived at the Ballarat East presbytery with him in the early 1970s, even then Father Pell.

"I've been told that but I can't remember actually being there with George," Ridsdale said via videolink from prison.

"I can't remember him in the house.

"I've never had much to do with him."

Yet as a press photo shows, then Bishop Pell accompanied Ridsdale to his first court appearance in 1993.

He remembered they walked together to the Melbourne court but said he did not ask Bishop Pell what he would say.

"I think we were clutching at straws really," Ridsdale said.

"I don't know what benefit anyone coming to speak on my behalf, what benefit it would have been to me or to my cause, or to my hearing or sentence. But the barrister said we needed some people to come along and support me."

Ridsdale said he did not discuss the offences with Cardinal Pell.

"No. I don't think we discussed them. But they were public anyway, so he would have known," Ridsdale said.

Ridsdale then said he could not remember if he had already pleaded guilty.

Cardinal Pell has said it was a mistake to show "priestly solidarity" that day, as he did not know the extent of Ridsdale's crimes.

He has repeatedly denied allegations that he tried to bribe one abuse victim to keep quiet, ignored complaints and was complicit in moving Ridsdale to a different parish.

Cardinal Pell last week said he would answer all allegations in a statement but has now said he will appear in person at the inquiry if required.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that I am willing to give evidence should the commission request this, be it by statement, appearance by videolink or by attending personally," he said.

Lawyer and Monash University doctoral researcher Judy Courtin, who has worked with Ballarat abuse victims, said Ridsdale's selective memory was not credible.

"He's remembering acute detail about certain events and at the same time he has no memory at all of living with George Pell."


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