Cardinal George Pell: Court Told Archbishop Robes Could Not Be Easily Removed

By Melissa Davey
The Guardian
March 22, 2018

Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne magistrates court. He is the highest ranking Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandal. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

A pastoral associate who worked at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne when Cardinal George Pell was archbishop has told a court that the archbishop’s robes were heavy and could not be easily lifted or moved while being worn to expose oneself.

Rodney Dearing was cross-examined by Pell’s defence team on Thursday as part of the committal hearing into historical sexual offence charges against Pell. Dearing told the court that he was responsible for hanging up Pell’s robes and he was therefore familiar with the weight and manoeuvrability of them.

Pell’s barrister Ruth Shann put it to Dearing that the robes were “not able to be parted in the middle to reveal ones genitals or indeed parted to the side to reveal ones genitals”.

“No,” Dearing responded.

The court heard that two of the choir boys had said they had “snuck back inside” the cathedral building as the procession exited the building. But Shann told Dearing that there was a general awareness at the time Pell was archbishop of Melbourne, from 1996, “of allegations coming out generally about clergy and kids”, which would have “motivated you personally and fellow adult chorists to keep a particularly close eye on the kids”. Dearing agreed.

The defence has been cross-examining former choir boys and staff at the cathedral at the time Pell was archbishop, and suggesting to them that two missing boys would have been noticed due to the strict expectation that choirboys were to follow the rules, the close eye staff kept on the choir and the layout of the building and grounds.

On Thursday morning Peter Finnigan, who used to manage the choir, told the defence team that while he did not recall two boys going missing at any stage, “it would certainly be possible”.

“But they would certainly be very naughty boys if they did,” he said.

Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal. He has taken leave from the Vatican in Rome to attend court. He has strenuously denied all allegations.

When the hearing adjourns magistrate Belinda Wallington will need to decide if there is enough evidence to order Pell to stand trial accused of historical sexual offences. Further description of the charges cannot be given for legal reasons.

The committal hearing continues.








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