UPDATE: Cardinal George Pell has responded to allegations he tried to bribe victims of pedophile priests.
In a statement released Wednesday night he said he was horrified by survivors’ accounts of the abuse they had suffered.
Church’s handling worse than abuse: victim
“The crimes committed against them by priests and brothers are profoundly evil and completely repugnant to me,” he said.
“A number of claims have been made concerning my own response during these years… Over the last 24 hours I have been accused of being complicit in the moving of a known paedophile, of ignoring a victim’s complaint, and of bribery.”
Cardinal Pell felt the matters required an urgent response due to ‘false and misleading headlines’.
Timothy Green, 53, alleged he was 12 or 13 when he told then Father Pell in late 1974 that Brother Edward Vernon Dowlan was abusing boys at Ballarat’s St Patrick’s College.
Cardinal Pell said he did not recall having the conversation and that to the best of his believe “the conversation did not happen”.
He also responded to allegations he tried to bribe a victim to keep quiet:
“At no time did I attempt to bribe David Ridsdale or his family or offer any financial inducements for him to be silent,” he said.
Cardinal Pell said he was committed to complete cooperation with the Royal Commission and would address in full all matters it wished to raise.
He said he had deepest sympathy for victims of abuse for what they had suffered.
Cardinal George Pell has issued the following statement regarding child sex allegations:
Abuse victim says Pell tried to bribe himCardinal George Pell tried to bribe a victim of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale to keep quiet and dismissed another abuse victim’s complaint as ridiculous, the royal commission has heard.
The Vatican’s finance chief will again have to answer to the sex abuse royal commission after David Ridsdale, the nephew of Australia’s worst pedophile priest, said he told Cardinal Pell in 1993 about the abuse at the hands of his uncle.
Mr Ridsdale told the royal commission Cardinal Pell, a family friend, asked him: “I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.”
Mr Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell had started talking about his growing family and that he may soon have to buy a car or house.
He said his response was “f*** you George and everything you stand for”.
After he hung up, Mr Ridsdale said he told his sisters about the phone conversation.
“I have never stated that Pell offered me anything specific or tangible in our conversation, only that his attempts to direct the conversation down a particular path made me extremely suspicious of his motivations and what he was insinuating,” Mr Ridsdale told the hearing in Ballarat on Wednesday.
Cardinal Pell has previously denied Mr Ridsdale’s claims of bribery.
The former Sydney archbishop has been mentioned at the commission this week by several witnesses who say he knew – or at the least suggest he might have known – about the widespread abuse in Ballarat while he was a senior priest in the city in the 1970s.
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan says Cardinal Pell will be required to answer the allegations in a statement.
“These are significant and serious questions,” Justice McClellan told church counsel Peter Gray SC.
Mr Gray said Cardinal Pell had publicly and repeatedly said his recollection of the conversation with Mr Ridsdale was quite different.
Mr Ridsdale said he called Cardinal Pell because he believed he was a friend he could trust.
“Some days I don’t know who I am angrier at, Gerald for being a sick monster, or George for the way he reacted and dealt with the issue.”
Timothy Green, 53, told the commission he was 12 or 13 when he told then Father Pell in late 1974 that Brother Edward Vernon Dowlan was abusing boys at Ballarat’s St Patrick’s College.
“I said Brother Dowlan is touching little boys,” said Mr Green, himself a victim of Dowlan.
“Father Pell said ‘don’t be ridiculous’ and walked out.
“Father Pell didn’t ask any questions. He didn’t say what do you mean or how could you say that.
“He just dismissed it and walked out.
“His reaction gave me the impression that he knew about Brother Dowlan but couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything about it.”
In response to Mr Green’s claims in the media, Cardinal Pell said in 2002: “At a distance of 28 years, I have no recollection of any such conversation. If I was approached and thought the stories plausible I would have informed the Christian Brothers.”
Another abuse victim, BAV, told the commission that after he had been abused by Ridsdale in a bedroom at the Ballarat presbytery, Cardinal Pell, who also lived there, arrived home.
“I saw the back of Father Pell but did not know if he saw me and Father Ridsdale or not,” BAV said.
Nun laughed after priest’s abuse: victim
A nun laughed after a five-year-old orphan was abused by a priest at a Victorian Catholic home, the sex abuse royal commission has heard.
Gordon Hill, 72, told the commission he was sexually and physically abused at St Joseph’s Home in Ballarat, in what he called horror rooms and dungeons.
Mr Hill – whose name at “St Joey’s” was 29 because that was his locker number – said he was five when he was first abused by a priest.
A nun told him: “Father wants to cleanse you, 29.”
He blacked out after being given a drink by the priest, and when he came to he “hurt like bloody hell” and was bleeding from his back down to his shins, he told the royal commission on Wednesday.
The priest pushed him out the door where the nun was waiting.
“She was laughing at me and told me to get back to work,” he said.
Mr Hill said he was later subjected to what he believed was electric shock therapy when the nuns wanted to find out if he had told anyone of his abuse, after he was found in a local hospital.
“It was like some sort of electric shock therapy,” he said after travelling 3000km from Western Australia to read his statement to the commission hearing in Ballarat.
“They wanted to know what I had told them at the hospital.”
Mr Hill said the nuns at the home would thrash him and he was abused by three priests, including by one in a confessional box while parishioners gave their confessions.
“If I made a noise as I was sitting beneath the priest’s bench in the confessional box he would whack me across the face to shut me up,” Mr Hill said.
“If any Catholics had known what was going on they would have been horrified.”
Victim after victim told the royal commission of horrific abuse in institutions and schools run by the Catholic Church in the Ballarat diocese, and of nothing being done to stop it.
Neil Wileman was abused by three Christian Brothers including convicted pedophile Brother Edward Vernon Dowlan, and said he didn’t feel an apology from a senior member of the Catholic order in 2002 was sincere.
“Those responsible for covering up the abuse are almost as much to blame for what has happened as those who committed the abuse,” the 55-year-old said.
“There was too much emphasis on protecting the reputation of institutions like the Catholic Church and not enough emphasis on protecting the children.”
Victim BAV told the commission there is not enough support and understanding for victims, with men abused as children at Catholic institutions still committing suicide.
“I believe the church’s handling of the abuse has in some ways been worse than the initial sexual abuse that occurred,” he said.
“The abuse might be historical but suicides by victims of sexual assault are still going and is still happening.”
He was abused by convicted pedophiles Father Gerald Francis Ridsdale and Brother Robert Charles Best.
Two brothers and a cousin committed suicide after they were also abused, he said.
The commission has heard of a high suicide rate in Ballarat among abuse victims.
- Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.