Cardinal Pell, under hostile fire, repeats he was not aware of priest's abuse
March 01, 2016
Facing hostile questioning during his 2nd day of testimony before an Australian royal commission on sexual abuse, Cardinal George Pell repeated his insistence that he was not aware of abuse by a notorious ex-priest, Gerald Ridsdale.
When asked whether he would take responsibility for the fact that Ridsdale had been transferred to new assignments after abuse allegations, the cardinal replied: "No, I don't." He explained that he had not been told the reasons for the priest's re-assignment.
At that time, the future cardinal was a priest in the Ballarat diocese. He said that then-Bishop Ronald Mulkearns of Ballarat had given vague and innocuous reasons for transferring Ridsdale.
Cardinal Pell was candid in his criticism of Bishop Mulkearns' handling of the Ridsdale case. "His repeated refusal to act is, I think, absolutely extraordinary," he said. The cardinal said that he could not think of another bishop "whose actions are so grave and inexplicable."
Bishop Mulkearns resigned from the Ballarat diocese in 1997, at the age of 66. He is now living in retirement.
Members of the royal commission pressed Cardinal Pell on the Ridsdale case, and one member, Gail Furness, said that it was "implausible" that the prelate could not have known of the priest's misconduct. "That is complete nonsense," Cardinal Pell shot back.
Press coverage of the cardinal's testimony in Australia has also been extremely hostile, with reporters hinting that the cardinal has not been forthright in his statements. When the cardinal testified that he had "not much interest" in the reasons for Bishop Mulkearn's decisions to transfer Ridsdale years ago, several newspapers led their Tuesday coverage with headlines suggesting that the cardinal had "not much interest" in the Ridsdale case—ignoring the cardinal's insistence that he was unaware of Ridsdale's abuse at that time.
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