‘Monstrously unfair’: Bolt’s take on Pell
Cardinal George Pell and his number one supporter have hit back at claims he was aware of paedophile priests being moved around.
The royal commission concluded Cardinal Pell knew Ballarat priest Gerald Ridsdale was moved between parishes because of sex abuse allegations and failed to push an archbishop to remove Melbourne priest Peter Searson.
It also rejected Cardinal Pell's claim he was deceived by Catholic Church officials about the two priests.
"The scapegoating of Cardinal George Pell continues. It's not enough that he spent 405 days in jail for rapes he could not have committed. Now that the High Court has quashed that conviction, we're allowed to read what the royal commission into child sex abuse said about Pell - and it's again monstrously unfair," he said.
Cardinal Pell, who was released from jail last month after the High Court overturned his child abuse convictions, said he was surprised by some of the royal commission's views about his actions.
"These views are not supported by evidence," Cardinal Pell said in a statement.
The commission found Cardinal Pell was aware of child sexual abuse by clergy in the early 1970s, after the former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop agreed it was "on his radar".
The commission found that Pell, when he was a priest in the rural diocese of Ballarat in Victoria state, had begun considering in 1973 the "prudence" of now-jailed child sex abuser Gerald Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camping trips.
"By this time, child sexual abuse was on his radar," the commission said.
"We are also satisfied that by 1973 Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy but that he also had considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it."
The commission found it was "likely that he knew of Ridsdale's sexual transgressions" when Pell joined a meeting about moving the priest to another parish in 1977.
Pell, who lived with Ridsdale in 1973 and supported him at his first court appearance in 1993, has insisted he had no memory of claims of sustained mistreatment in Ballarat.
In a statement yesterday, Pell said he was "surprised by some of the views of the royal commission".
"These views are not supported by evidence," he said.
Pell added that attendees of the 1977 meeting either learned of Ridsdale's offending "much later" or did not recall the discussions.
The commissioners rejected Cardinal Pell's evidence that Bishop Mulkearns lied to the consultors in 1982 when Ridsdale was removed from Mortlake parish.
"Cardinal Pell's evidence that 'paedophilia was not mentioned' and that the 'true' reason was not given is not accepted," the report said.
Cardinal Pell said none of the consultors who gave evidence said they were made aware of Ridsdale's offending at the 1977 and 1982 meetings.
The commission also rejected Cardinal Pell's evidence he was deceived by Melbourne Catholic education officials, after a 1989 delegation of Doveton teachers complained to him about Searson.
Cardinal Pell removed Searson after becoming archbishop in 1996.
Current Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli again apologised for the archdiocese's failure to protect children.
"While the passage of time can never obscure the systemic failings of leadership, process and culture of that period, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has acted upon the recommendations of the royal commission," he said.
"Much has changed as a result."
Current Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird said the diocese acknowledged the past failings that allowed the terrible abuse of so many children.
"The diocese also acknowledges the tragic consequences of that abuse to those abused and their families."
A number of abuse survivors have taken civil action against the Melbourne archdiocese and Ballarat diocese.
"Sadly for a number of them while the findings will be deeply disappointing, including that the abuse they suffered was known and not acted on, it will be of little surprise," Maurice Blackburn lawyer Michelle James said.
The royal commission rejected some claims about Cardinal Pell's knowledge of abuse while a Ballarat priest and Melbourne auxiliary bishop in the 1970s and 1980s.
- with AAP
Originally published as 'Monstrously unfair': Bolt's take on Pell