Did Cardinal George Pell know about mass child abuse by other clergy during his time as a priest in the Ballarat diocese, but did nothing about it? The state's investigative report now concludes that.
According to Australian media reports, the state abuse commission handed over part of its final report to parliament on Thursday. Ballarat was at the center of the abuse scandal in Australia's Catholic Church in the 1970s and 1980s.
The 100 or so pages of the final report, which was already published at the end of 2017 and concerns Pell, had initially not been made public because of the ongoing trial against him. Following Pell's acquittal by the Supreme Court in April and his release from prison, the chapters have now been made available to parliament and the public.
Report rejects Pell's statements
In it, the commission rejects Pell's claim that he knew nothing about the actions of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale and other clergy during his time as a priest in Ballarat and close adviser to then-Bishop Ronald Mulkearns. By 1973 at the latest, the commission said, Pell was aware that Ridsdale regularly took boys to night camps. Pell had also made sure that "talk about it" was avoided.
Investigative report also rejects Pell's claim that Bishop Mulkearns concealed the truth from him and other advisers about the reason for Ridsdale's transfer. It cannot be amed that the bishop lied to his advisers, he said.
The report, however, debunks an accusation by a nephew of Ridsdale that Pell offered him hush money not to testify about abuse by his uncle. But commission sees evidence that Pell ignored abuse allegations against more priests as priest in Ballarat and later as auxiliary bishop in Melbourne.
Knowledge of Ridsdale's pedophilia denied
Ridsale is probably one of Australia's most serious clerical sex offenders. Since 1993, he has been sentenced to a total of 34 years in prison in several trials for the abuse of 65 boys.
Just last week, Ridsdale confessed in a Melbourne court to abusing four other boys. The now 84-year-old was, among other things, a school chaplain in Ballarat when Pell headed the diocese's school board.
Pell, who at times lived with Ridsdale in a priest's apartment, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Ridsdale's pedophilia. In 1993, Pell, then already auxiliary bishop in Melbourne, accompanied Ridsdale to his first abuse trial and appeared as an exculpatory witness.