SHOCK NEW CLAIMS: PELL KNEW ABOUT ABUSE, SAYS PRIEST
- Gerald Ridsdale admits be abused over 100 children over 30 years
- George Pell insists he “knew nothing”
- However whistleblower priest says Pell knew about sex abuse and Ridsdale’s offending
George Pell’s claims that he “knew nothing” about allegations of child sex abuse lie in tatters today with revelations that he personally attended a high-level meeting to discuss Gerald Ridsdale’s sexual misconduct in 1982.
GEORGE PELL KNEW ABOUT THE ABUSE
Father Eric Bryant has revealed that concerns over Ridsdale’s “committing homosexual acts” were explicitly discussed in the meeting — which was attended by now Cardinal George Pell — at which it was decided to shift Ridsdale from the parish of Mortlake.
The stunning revelation came as Ridsdale broke his silence over his crimes to the royal commission.
PELL ALLOWED THE ABUSE TO CONTINUE
Ridsdale said church authorities knew he was molesting children in the 1960s, but gave him access to more vulnerable youngsters for almost 30 years.
Detailing the meeting of seven priests, Fr Bryant said Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns had opened it by saying: “We’ve got a problem with homosexuality in the diocese.”
“The bishop said Gerald Ridsdale has been reported committing homosexual acts.
“I thought, ‘What have I got myself into?’,” Fr Bryant said.
GEORGE PELL’S DENIALS – LIES DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE CHURCH
Cardinal Pell, now one of the Catholic Church’s most senior figures, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Ridsdale’s crimes until he was charged and jailed in 1993.
Pell reiterated his denials late last week, as minutes emerged of the 1982 College of Consultors meeting were highlighted, detailing how Bishop Mulkearns advised it was “necessary’’ to move Ridsdale from Mortlake.
Plans for Ridsdale to transfer to Sydney’s Catholic Enquiry Centre were discussed at the meeting.
However the official minutes of the meeting released afterwards — which listed both Bryant and Pell in attendance — gave no indication of why the decision was made.
However victims argue the reasons for the transfer must have been discussed at the meeting.
PELL CONTINUES TO DENY KNOWLEDGE OF SEX CRIMES
In a statement on the meeting, Dr Pell said:
“My recollection is that Bishop Mulkearns did not raise any paedophilia allegations against Ridsdale at the Consultors meetings I attended, or at any time before or after such meetings.
“I never moved Ridsdale out of Mortlake parish. I never moved him anywhere. I would never have condoned or participated in a decision to transfer Ridsdale in the knowledge that he had abused children, and I did not do so.”
RIDSDALE TARGETED “VULNERABLE KIDS”
Ridsdale told the commission that he pursued kids from broken families.
He said when he was in Mortlake he was unable to suppress his urge to sexually assault young children.
He admitted sharing his presbytery bedroom with a young boy and making no effort to hide his living arrangements.
“It was no secret around Mortlake, eventually, about me and my behaviour; there was talk all around among the children, and one lot of parents came to me, it would’ve been discussed at the local pub” he said.
“I got out of control again.”
“I went haywire there. Altar boys mainly.”
But Ridsdale refused to detail who in the church hierarchy had known.
Fr Bryant said he could not recall any mention in the meeting of the ages of the people who were involved.
“There was no mention of children,” he said.
Now a parish priest at Stawell, Fr Bryant said that he remembered the meeting well as it was his first.
He also said Fr Pell had been the second-most junior priest there.
“George was just a simple priest like me back in those days,” he said.
The commission has yet to formally ask Cardinal Pell to appear for the latest round of hearings, but he has offered to. Which is very gracious of him don’t you think. We should be blessed.
If it transpires, it will be his third appearance before the commission.
Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan has told church lawyers the cardinal may need to formally respond to claims from witnesses that he had been complicit in a widespread cover-up of sexual abuse in Ballarat.
Demonstrating a remarkable ability to recall precise details of his patterns of grooming and abuse, and complete memory lapses of other events – such as sharing a house with George Pell in 1973, Ridsdale maintains that he never confessed his sins to fellow clergy or disclosed his abuse to anyone else.
But he said his crimes would have been discussed by priests at “clergy conferences”.
“It makes sense that other priests would have known, because word would have got around,” Ridsdale said.