Pell knew of recidivist sex offender

Cardinal George Pell has expressed surprise at some of the views about his actions after being severely criticised by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Pell says the Commission’s views “are not supported by the evidence”.

The Commission’s findings were made public in 2017. However, a court redacted the report because Pell was facing child abuse charges at the time.

The unredacted chapters of the findings were not made public until late Thursday. They find Pell knowingly being involved in the movement of a relentless abuser, of failing to recommend the removal of another and not doing sufficient to deal with a third criminal clergyman.

In particular, the Commission has dismissed Pell’s long-stated defence that he did not know about the actions of the recidivist abuser, Gerald Risdale in Ballarat.

Ridsdale committed more than 130 offences against children as young as four between the 1960s and 1980s.

Now in prison, as recently as April he was charged with additional historical sexual abuse offences.

Pell’s involvement was as a relatively junior priest: he was one of the “consultors” of then Ballarat Bishop, Ronald Mulkearns. “Consultors” are a small group of priests the bishop consults regarding diocesan appointments and movement of priests around the bishop’s diocese.

Pell maintains Mulkearns did not give the true reason for moving Risdale and that Mulkearns lied in not giving the true reason to the consultors.

The Royal Commission differs and does not accept that Mulkearns lied to his consultors.

“Cardinal Pell’s evidence that ‘paedophilia was not mentioned’ and that the ‘true’ reason was not given is not accepted. It is ‘implausible’ given the matters set out above that Bishop Mulkearns did not inform those at the meeting of at least complaints of sexual abuse of children having been made.”

The Commission accepted that Mulkearns made the final decision to shift Ridsdale to another parish to avoid scandal and called Mulkearns recurring practice an “extraordinary and inexcusable failure” and “appalling conduct”.

However, the Commission went on to find that Pell and the other consultors failed to advise against the Mulkerns proposal.

The Commission labelled Pell and the other consultors failure to act as “unacceptable”.

Cardinal Pell in his testimony to the Royal Commission was critical of Mulkearns and another priest responsible for earlier appointing Ridsdale to the small parish of Inglewood when they knew of allegations of child sexual abuse against him.

The finding means that Cardinal Pell was aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Ridsdale at least a decade before Ridsdale’s offending was investigated by police and possibly earlier. The Commission noted it would be “surprised” if Mulkearns deceived Cardinal Pell at a 1977 College of Consultors meeting when Ridsdale’s appointment to the Edenhope parish was discussed.

In other instances of alleged neglect of victims in the Ballarat diocese, the Commission accepted Pell’s testimony.

The most serious allegation is that Pell offered to bribe David Risdale to take allegations of sexual abuse again his uncle, Gerald Risdale, to a church hearing rather than the Police.

“I never impeded or discouraged anyone from going to the Police,” he told the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission found that in two other instances, Cardinal Pell was falsely accused by otherwise honest witnesses in apparent cases of mistaken identity.

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