Melbourne, May 20: Australia’s highest ranking member of the Catholic Church has been accused at a Royal Commission hearing of knowing about child sexual abuse claims against a Victorian priest for more than 30 years.
Cardil George Pell has come under pressure to reveal if he had covered up the abuse claims against former Catholic Church priest Gerald Ridsdale in the Victorian town of Ballarat, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. A Royal Commission into Institutiol Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which has heard evidence on Monday and Tuesday, was told that Pell, now a prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy in Rome, may have known about Ridsdale’s crimes years before Ridsdale first faced charges.
Gail Furness, senior counsel, told the commission that a group of priests advised Rold Mulkearns, a Ballarat-based bishop at the time, to move Ridsdale between parishes after claims of “ippropriate behaviour” and sexual abuse against children came to light.
Pell is alleged to have been involved in the decision to move Ridsdale between parishes on the back of those claims.
The inquest has taken testimony from former students of St. Alipius Parish and Primary School in Ballarat near Melbourne, as well as other schools in the area. Ridsdale, 81, was part of a group of paedophile priests that served the Ballarat area in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
He has already pleaded guilty to 138 charges of indecent assault, gross indecency and buggery against up to 40 children. More than 50 suicides have been linked to the abuse claims from the Ballarat area. Pell supported Ridsdale during his first child sex offence charges during 1993 and has vehemently denied knowing that the children were abused in Ballarat. News Corp reported that calls have been made to the Vatican to urge Pope Francis to make sure Pell answers the accusations. The hearings are expected to last up to three weeks, and will look into Catholic schools’ responses to child sexual abuse allegations. Up to 100 people are expected to give evidence. (IANS)