Pell blames bishop for paedophile priest move

Cardinal George Pell discussed Gerald Ridsdale in 1982. Photo / AP
Cardinal George Pell discussed Gerald Ridsdale in 1982. Photo / AP

Australian Cardinal George Pell has laid blame for failing to act against a paedophile priest on the dying former bishop of Ballarat, despite being challenged that his claim of ignorance is implausible.

Pell, now Pope Francis' top financial adviser, was one of seven advisers to former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns who met in 1982 to discuss moving notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

The minutes of the meeting mention the bishop "advised it had become necessary" to move Ridsdale from the Ballarat parish of Mortlake.

Pell yesterday told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that three of the seven consulters at the meeting knew of the history of complaints against Ridsdale but said he did not know because Mulkearns had deceived him and another priest had lied about the matter.

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness, SC, suggested "that it is implausible" that Pell did not know why it had become necessary for Ridsdale to be moved.

Pell replied that "it would only be implausible if there was evidence that they had been told in some way or other".

It was the second day of evidence for the 74-year-old cleric, who because of ill health could not travel to Australia to give evidence in person at the inquiry into decades of child abuse.

Two dozen Australian abuse survivors and their companions travelled across the globe to witness Pell's testimony in a hotel conference room in Rome, a significant show of accountability in the church's long-running abuse saga.

Pell said he suspected Mulkearns concealed the allegations against Ridsdale because the bishop didn't want to share culpability with Pell for allowing Ridsdale to continue abusing children.

"He might have wanted to protect us from his wrongdoing," Pell said. "He might have feared that, if he told us the truth, that people like myself would have said: 'Well, look, is that correct? I am not sure we should be going in that direction at all'."

Ridsdale, now in jail, was moved from parish to parish around Ballarat for more than a decade and continued abusing children. Pell said Mulkearns, who is 85 and dying of cancer in a Ballarat nursing home, lied by not revealing the reason for moving Ridsdale.

- AAP, AP

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