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Australia

Cardinal Pell 'knew about clergy sex abuse for decades'

Previously redacted findings from a report into child sexual abuse in Australia have been made public

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: May 07, 2020 10:14 AM GMT
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Cardinal Pell 'knew about clergy sex abuse for decades'

Cardinal George Pell makes his way to court in Melbourne in February 2019. He was convicted of sexually abusing two choir boys in December 2018 but the decision was overturned by Australia's High Court last month. (Photo: Con Chronis/AFP)

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Cardinal George Pell was aware of children being sexually abused by priests in Australia for decades, a child abuse royal commission found.

Three years after the release of the commission’s report into child sexual abuse, the Australian government has published dozens of previously redacted pages of text relating to Cardinal Pell.

Three reports published on May 7 reveal the commission's findings into what the cardinal knew about allegations of child sex abuse by priests decades ago in Victoria state.

The commission found that, as early as 1973, the former Vatican treasurer "was not only conscious of child sex abuse by clergy but that he also had considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it."

Its findings had been redacted to avoid prejudicing a trial involving Cardinal Pell on five charges of child sexual assault allegedly committed in the 1990s. He was convicted in December 2018 but the decision was overturned by Australia's High Court in a unanimous ruling last month.

The commission heard disturbing details about priest Gerald Ridsdale’s offending in the Archdiocese of Ballarat and the response of the Catholic Church to it.

In 2015, the commission heard evidence that suggested Cardinal Pell was involved in the decision to move Ridsdale between parishes once the abuse came to light. Cardinal Pell has always denied this or having any knowledge of children being abused in Ballarat, including by Ridsdale.

“We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps,” the commission found.

“The most likely reason for this, as Cardinal Pell acknowledged, was the possibility that if priests were one on one with a child, then they could sexually abuse a child or at least provoke gossip about such a prospect.”

Ridsdale committed more than 130 offenses against children aged as young as four between the 1960s and 1980s, including while working as a school chaplain at St. Alipius Boys’ School in Ballarat. He is now in prison.

Cardinal Pell, who supported Ridsdale during his first court appearance in 1993, has always denied knowing of any child abuse occurring in Ballarat while he worked there as a priest and with a clerical group called the College of Consultors during the 1970s and 1980s.

The cardinal also spent time living with Ridsdale in 1973 but has said he was not aware he was a pedophile.

Not one person has been convicted in Australia for the crime of concealment of child sexual abuse.

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