‘It’s been a hard slog’ for me: Pell
Cardinal George Pell speaks with media in Rome after the Royal Commission saying he hopes his appearance has contributed to “healing” and “improving the situation”. (Video courtesy ABC News 24)
Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell have sought to discredit a witness at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse on Wednesday, persuading Justice Peter McClellan to publicly release a document they say calls into question the testimony of a man whose brother was allegedly abused by disgraced Ballarat Christian Brother Edward Dowlan.
Cardinal Pell’s lawyer Sam Duggan also claimed the man, known only as BWF, was an unreliable witness.
But Justice McClellan said he was only releasing the document – a judge’s courtroom remarks sentencing BWF for an unrelated crime years later – in the interests of openness and transparency.
Cardinal George Pell leaves the Quirinale Hotel after meeting victims of sex abuse in March. Photo: Riccardo De Luca
BWF clashed with Mr Duggan at an earlier hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in December, when he told the commission he had told church authorities in 1973 his younger brother BWG was brutally bashed and molested by disgraced brother Edward Dowlan.
BWF said he had discovered that his brother had been sent to a doctor because an attack from Dowlan had left his legs and buttocks severely bruised. He assumed at the time that he had also been sexually assaulted because Dowlan’s abusive behaviour was then common knowledge among students.
Dowlan is currently serving a minimum of three years in jail for abusing 20 young boys.
BWF told the December hearing he had told Cardinal Pell about the abuse at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Ballarat.
“I just blurted out to Pell that Brother Dowlan had beaten and molested [his brother] BWG and demanded to know what Pell going to do about it,” BWF told the hearing.
“Pell became angry and yelled at me ‘young man, how dare you knock on this door and make demands’.”
But Mr Duggan suggested BWF was lying, and told him: “Father Pell was not living in the presbytery on Sturt and Dawson Street in 1973 and had no reason to be there.”
BWF’s evidence followed testimony from other survivors who told the commission that Cardinal Pell had dismissed their reports of clergy abuse.
On Wednesday, Mr Duggan made a successful application to the Royal Commission to have a suppression order lifted on a judge’s sentencing remarks in a criminal case involving BWF.
“The principle of open justice would start from the principle that there should be no suppression. There is no reason to make the suppression order under Sec 6D because the document…does not go anywhere near risking identification of BWF,” he said.
“The relevance of the document itself is a slightly different issue…If this was a jury trial, I might be minded to make an application that the trial judge should give a warning that the testimony of BWF is unreliable, so in those circumstances we say it is relevant.”
The hearing was told the document – which has been heavily redacted – had already been tendered to the Royal Commission. Its public release could not identify BWF.
Justice McClellan said he did not accept the argument that releasing the document publicly would deter other victims from coming forward, as the sentencing remarks did not identify BWF. He said the relevance of the sentencing remarks “may not be of great significance”, and the only matter before him was openness and transparency, given the documents had already been tendered with the Royal Commission.
The document will be released later on Wednesday.
Earlier, the hearing was told that no further action would be taken in relation to former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, the so-called “keeper of secrets”, who died earlier this month after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.
Bishop Mulkearns was due to reappear before the Royal Commission. In February he told the Commission he was “terribly sorry” for moving paedophile priests around Victorian parishes for decades, enabling countless children to be sexually assaulted by clergy and teachers.
The Commission was also told former priest psychologist at Ballarat Dan Torpy had raised as early as 1980 that there had been “whispers” about the predatory behaviour of paedophile priest Father Gerald Ridsdale at Edenhope, in the Victorian Wimmera region.
Lawyer Michael Fitzgerald said Mr Torpy had also written to Bishop Mulkearns to tell him about “whispers of a nasty situation at Edenhope”.
After leaving Edenhope, Mr Fitzgerald said, Father Ridsdale was transferred to the National Pastoral Institute at Gardenvale.
There, Father Ridsdale was introduced to Mr Fitzgerald’s client Paul Levey, and later abused him.
The hearing continues.
– with Jane Lee
Witnesses will give evidence refuting that Cardinal Pell was kept in the dark on abuse. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
THE child abuse royal commission will turn its focus back to Cardinal George Pell with four new witnesses to give evidence refuting claims he was kept in the dark about abuse.
During his most recent appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Cardinal Pell said he had been deceived by Catholic Education Office (CEO) staff.
He said that while he was Melbourne’s auxiliary bishop, CEO staff had failed to tell him about abuse being perpetrated by Doveton parish priest Peter Searson.
Four former CEO employees have now made statements to the commission over his claims and will be called to give evidence at a hearing on April 27.
Lawyer Sam Duggan, for Cardinal Pell, would not rule out his client giving further evidence to the commission in light of the statements but said it was unlikely.
During a direction hearings yesterday, Mr Duggan called into question the evidence of a witness, BWF, who claimed Cardinal Pell ignored his complaints of abuse.
Mr Duggan successfully applied to have details of BWF’s criminal record publicly released in an attempt to discredit his testimony.
BWF told the commission that he was shunned by Cardinal Pell, then a priest, when he begged for help to protect his brother from a notorious church paedophile.
He said he went to see Cardinal Pell in 1973 at his premises after learning Brother Edward Dowlan was beating and molesting his brother at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat.
“(Pell said)-young man, how dare you knock on this door and make demands,” he told the commission.
“We argued for a bit and he finally told me to go away and shut the door.”
Cardinal Pell has emphatically denied the allegations.
Church officials deny George Pell claims of sex abuse cover-up
Former Catholic Education Office staff will be called to appear before the sex abuse royal commission to rebut claims by Cardinal George Pell that he had been deceived over paedophile abuse.
The four former Catholic officials have rebutted Cardinal Pell’s claims in statements to the commission and will give oral evidence to the commission on April 27.
The commission sought the statements after Cardinal Pell, now a senior Vatican official, last month accused the office of keeping from him reports of violent and sexual misconduct by the late Peter Searson.
Searson sexually abused children, threatened parishioners with a gun and is alleged to have stabbed a bird to death with a screwdriver, the inquiry heard.
Cardinal Pell told the commission he had been “deceived” by the CEO, which did not “adequately brief” him about Searson and “told me there was insufficient evidence to remove him” during the late 1980s and early 90s. Dr Pell then was an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne, overseeing Searson’s Doveton parish in the city’s east.
The Australian understands the former head of the office, Thomas Doyle, has given evidence denying his staff intended to deceive Cardinal Pell, although he may not have been given all relevant information.
Monsignor Doyle has told the commission he expected others in the office would have told Cardinal Pell that Searson should be removed, but does not remember doing so himself.
Two other former CEO employees, Catherine Bryant and Peter Annett, are understood to have given new statements saying they were not involved in formal briefings with the cardinal and did not meet him at the time.
In evidence last month, Dr Pell said he was caught up in “a world of crimes and cover-ups” that involved his former bishop, Ronald Mulkearns, and archbishop Frank Little, who concealed their knowledge of abuse. Both men have since died.
Questioning Cardinal Pell last month, counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness SC, said: “Your evidence in relation to not being briefed properly or adequately by the Catholic Education Office and the reasons for that are completely implausible.”
At a short directions hearing this morning, royal commission chair Peter McClellan ordered the four officials to travel from Melbourne to testify before the commission in Sydney.
Cardinal Pell’s barrister Sam Duggan said he did not expect Cardinal Pell to give further evidence to the commission in response to those statements but that his legal team would question the witnesses.
“I don’t want to nail my colours to the mast now … but I don’t expect it,” Mr Duggan said, when asked if Cardinal Pell would wish to provide further evidence to the commission.
Additional words: Nicola Berkovic