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Child abuse survivors 'give up' on Pell


A group of child sex abuse survivors say they’ve given up on Cardinal George Pell after hearing his evidence to a royal commission and have appealed directly to the Pope to ensure children are protected.

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The group, many of whom were abused as children by pedophile priests in the Catholic diocese of Ballarat in Victoria, has been in Rome to hear the cardinal give evidence to the child sex abuse royal commission.

But on Tuesday night they told journalists they had sent a letter seeking a meeting with Pope Francis and were no longer seeking a meeting with Pell.

He is being questioned over what he knew of pedophile priests in the Ballarat and Melbourne dioceses when he held senior church posts there in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

But Pell’s denials that he knew of active pedophiles in those dioceses have angered abuse survivors who find it unbelievable he wouldn’t have known of such offenders, including Australia’s worst pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale.

During a break in the hearing, in which the cardinal is giving evidence by videolink to the commission sitting in Sydney, abuse survivor Phil Nagle read out a letter his group had sent to the Pope.

The letter requested a meeting between the Pope and the Australian survivor group to discuss protecting children so the type of sex abuse children had suffered in the past was never repeated.

The letter said the group was flying back to Australia on Friday and would like a meeting before then.

Nagle told reporters that Pell’s evidence had prompted the move.

“We’re getting a little bit tired of what George is saying up there on the stand.

“We’ve only got two more days here in Rome and we want to be heard and we want someone to show that they care about us and can possibly help change this for the children into the future.”

Nagle said Pell was “giving us nothing, he doesn’t care, he’s turned his back on us, we don’t want to meet with George at all.”

Fellow abuse survivor David Ridsdale, who was abused by his pedophile priest uncle Gerald Ridsdale, said systems were needed in the church to identify and deal with problems involving child sex abuse.

“If necessary maybe all institutions need external systems to ensure they are keeping their side of the bargain of protecting children,” he said.

“Obviously the current system allows too many people to say, ‘I didn’t think it was my job to protect the children’.”

Pell’s evidence continued today, with the Cardinal again claiming he was deceived by people within the Catholic church who knew about sexual abuse by pedophile priests, but chose not to reveal this to him.

He told the child abuse royal commission he had sought a briefing from the Catholic Education Office after a delegation came to him in 1989, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Melbourne archdiocese, to complain about a priest, Father Peter Searson.

Complaints against Searson included abusing and harassing children and parents and harming animals in the Doveton parish.

However, Pell said the education office didn’t share a considerable amount of information they had about Searson’s behaviour.

Commissioner Peter McClellan asked Pell if he could give any reason why the education office “would choose to deceive you in relation to Searson’s behaviour?”.

“Yes, I was a new boy on the block,” Pell told the commission on Wednesday via an audiovisual link from Rome.

“I was known to be capable of being outspoken.

“They might have been fearful of just what line I would take when confronted with all the information.”

Pell agreed that there should be disciplinary action against the education office staff who deceived him.

On Tuesday the cardinal told the commission he was deceived by the former Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns, when he was a priest in that diocese in the 1970s and early 1980s about the behaviour of the now notorious pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

Pell was asked on Wednesday why he was deceived in the case of Ridsdale and Searson.

“In both cases, it’s a mystery but in both cases for some reason, they were covering up,” he said.

“I think they would have covered up from me, as I mentioned earlier, because they would have feared that I would not accept the status quo.”

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness put to the cardinal that his claims about the education office were “completely implausible” and were designed to deflect blame from himself.

“I can only tell you the truth,” Pell replied.


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