The Age Victoria
Cardinal George Pell will be asked to make a statement to the royal commission into child sexual abuse over claims he tried to bribe a victim to stay silent about his abuse and ignored claims by another that a now-convicted sex offender was abusing children at a Ballarat school.
David Ridsdale was abused by his uncle, convicted sex offender and former priest Gerald Ridsdale, from when he was 11 years old.
Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican last year. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino
Mr Ridsdale told the commission on Wednesday that he called then-Bishop Pell to tell him about the abuse in February 1993. He chose to phone Bishop Pell because he had known him since birth and: “He was the only human being in the church whom I believed was still a friend and who I could trust.”
He said Bishop Pell asked him: “I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.”
Brother Edward Dowlan in 1994. Photo: Geoff Ampt
Mr Ridsdale 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 remember saying to both my sisters: ‘the bastard just tried to bribe me’,” Mr Ridsdale told the hearing.
“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.”
Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied saying words to that effect. Justice Peter McClellan, chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said the commission would investigate the claims.
Mr Ridsdale also revealed that one of his aunts told him that her husband, then a policeman, had helped move Gerald Ridsdale “quietly out of Edenhope” when they learned of child abuse allegations against him there. His uncle later denied any involvement in this, and said his wife was mentally unwell.
Justice McClellan invited Peter Gray, SC, for church witnesses, to cross-examine Mr Ridsdale on the claims.
Mr Gray said his clients’ position was not to question witnesses “whose task is difficult enough as it is”.
“There should be no misunderstanding merely because of the stance the church has otherwise taken when it comes to [such issues], they are factual matters that we must investigate and determine,” Justice McClellan said.
Mr Gray said: “In the case of the telephone conversation about which Mr Ridsdale has given evidence, the commission is aware that the cardinal has publicly and repeatedly said that his recollection of that conversation is quite different.
“If and when the commission asks the cardinal to provide a statement, which we assume will happen, I expect that he will say the same thing.”
The royal commission will also decide whether Cardinal Pell ignored another victim’s claim that a now-convicted sex offender was abusing children at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat.
Fairfax Media has reported that a student of St Patrick’s College approached then Father Pell about the abuse by Brother Edward Dowlan in 1974. Father Pell replied “don’t be ridiculous” and left the room.
Most of the victims before the royal commission have been abused by Brother Dowlan, who was sentenced in March over 34 charges of indecent assault and gross indecency for abusing young boys between 1971 and 1985.
The student, Timothy Green, now 53, recounted the story to the commission.
Cardinal Pell has said he does not recall the conversation.
While the commissioners did not usually make findings about whether someone was abused, Justice McClellan said Mr Green’s claims were in a “wholly different category” because they dealt with the church’s response to allegations of child abuse.
He expected that the commissioners would be asked to make findings about the claims.
Mr Gray declined to cross-examine Mr Green and said the cardinal would likely repeat his rejection of the claims.
When he was about 12, Mr Green said he saw Father Pell at the change rooms of the Eureka Swimming Pool. Father Pell, who was a member of St Patrick’s college’s alumni, also said mass there occasionally at the time.
While Father Pell would not have known his name, Mr Green believed he would have known he was a St Patrick’s student, as he had once thanked him on behalf of the school at a function.
Father Pell greeted Mr Green and his friends as he started to change.
“I was saying something like ‘we’ve got to do something about what’s going on at St Pat’s,” he said.
“Father Pell said ‘yes what do you mean?’ I said Brother Dowlan is touching little boys. Father Pell said ‘don’t be ridiculous’ and walked out,” Mr Green said.
As Father Pell did not ask further questions before dismissing him, “his reaction gave me the impression that he knew about Brother Dowlan but couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything about it”.
Cardinal Pell has strongly denied allegations of involvement in any abuse cover-up.
In response to David Ridsdale’s testimony, Cardinal Pell said in a statement he had never “condoned or participated in a decision to transfer [Gerard] Ridsdale in the knowledge that he had abused children”, and “at no time did I attempt to bribe David Ridsdale or his family or offer any financial inducements for him to be silent.”
“I am committed to complete cooperation with the Royal Commission. I will address in full all matters it wishes to raise in any statement requested from me before I make any further comment,” Cardinal Pell said.
“I have the deepest sympathy for the victims of abuse, their families and the community of Ballarat for what they have suffered.”
– With Nick Toscano
Abuse victim says Pell tried to bribe him
May 20, 2015
CARDINAL 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.
Cardinal George Pell told in 1970s of claims of abuse, royal commission hears
The Advertiser Adelaid Australia
May 20, 2015
Inquiry hears bishop knew of clergy abuse
GEORGE Pell tried to bribe the nephew of notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale to keep quiet about his abuse at the hands of his uncle, it has been alleged.
David Ridsdale told the royal commission today he phoned Pell in 1993 to tell him about the abuse but instead of offering help he tried to silence him.
He said Pell asked “what would it take” for him to keep quiet about the abuse.
Mr Ridsdale said he responded: “F— you George and everything you stand for.”
Mr Ridsdale said the conversation, by telephone, took place a month before Pell controversially supported Ridsdale in court when he pleaded guilty to a string of abuse charges.
Pell has persistently denied knowing the extent of Ridsdale’s offending and has played down his relationship with the paedophile.
But David Ridsdale said today Pell was a close friend of the family and had been for more than a decade.
In a statutory declaration made in 2002, when David Ridsdale first spoke of his call to Pell, the then Archbishop of Sydney said he recalled the conversation.
“Although I do not recall the precise date of the telephone call, I recall that it was while I was an Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and that it was around the time of police action against Gerald Ridsdale.
To the best of my recollection the call took place early in 1993,” he said.
“He told me that he had been abused by his uncle. He also told me of financial difficulties that he, his wife and children were experiencing.
“I felt sorry for David and would have been keen to help him if I could. However, there was no basis upon which I could have provided him with any significant financial assistance.
“In my telephone conversation with David, there was no mention made of David going to the police. I did not consider his call or the conversation to be threatening in any way. David did not make any threats and did not swear at me.
“It was alleged that I said to David words to the effect “What will it take to keep you quiet?” I emphatically deny having said these words or any words to that effect.
“I emphatically and totally deny the allegation that I made any attempt to buy David’s silence.”
Pell also denied he offered to buy David a house or a car.
Earlier, the commission heard Pell was told of allegations of abuse as early as 1974.
Victim Timothy Green told the hearing today he told the Cardinal he had been abused by Brother Edward Dowlan but nothing was done.
He said Pell dismissed him saying: “Don’t be ridiculous”.
Dowlan, a convicted paedophile, has since changed his name and has admitted molesting more than 20 young students including kids at St Alipius Boys’ School.
He worked at the school alongside notorious paedophiles Robert Charles Best and Gerald Francis Ridsdale.
Cardinal Pell, an assistant priest at the parish in the early 1970s, shared the St Alipius’ presbytery home with Ridsdale for a short time in 1973.
Lawyers representing the church said today he had a different recollection of events than those detailed by Mr Green.
The royal commission says Pell may need to make a statement to the commission.
It will be the third time he has been called to give evidence since the public hearings started.
Because he is now based at the Vatican he can’t be compelled to comply with the commission.
Secret church documents tendered to a royal commission yesterday revealed that the Cardinal helped move Australia’s worst paedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale between parishes.
The move came decades after complaints were first made about Ridsdale and years before his last known offending.
It is not clear whether Cardinal Pell knew of the offending.
He is not currently scheduled to appear at the current royal commission hearing sitting in Ballarat.
If he does it would be his second appearance before the commission following his much criticised attendance via videolink from Rome in August last year.
His evidence sparked outrage when he said the Vatican was right to refuse the release of papal documents relating to every abuse case involving an Australian cleric.
Describing those documents as “internal working documents of another sovereign state” Cardinal Pell said the Church had provided 5000 pages of documents which he deemed sufficient.