Pell ‘knew nothing’ about Ridsdale’s rampant sex abuse

A small protest group gather with placards outside an inquiry into child sex abuse in Sydney, Tuesday, March 1, 2016.  Photo AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

A small protest group gather with placards outside an inquiry into child sex abuse in Sydney, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Photo AP Photo/Rick Rycroft


Cardinal George Pell has arrived at a Rome hotel for his third night of testimony to the child sex abuse commission sitting in Sydney.

Plain-clothes state police officers kept journalists back as the cardinal walked the few steps to the hotel door, refusing to answer questions about the hearing.

He is being questioned about what he knew of pedophile priests operating in Ballarat and Melbourne when he served there in the 1970s and 1980s.

On Tuesday, he told the commission he did not know about repeated complaints against the now-imprisoned pedophile Father Gerald Ridsdale because former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns did not tell him.

The former senior Australian Catholic, now the third-most powerful man in the Vatican, shocked abuse survivors who are in Rome to watch him give evidence via video link, when he said on Tuesday Ridsdale’s offences were ‘a sad story’ but had not been of much interest to him when they were happening in the 1970s in regional Victoria.

‘I had no reason to turn my mind to the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated,’ the cardinal said from Hotel Quirinale, where he is giving his evidence.

The nephew of Gerald Ridsdale, David Ridsdale, who was abused by his uncle and is among those in Rome, said Cardinal Pell was ‘either culpable or an ignorant buffoon’.

‘I don’t believe he’s the latter and we have no evidence of the former so we have to wait for the commission to do its job,’ he said.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Pell was challenged outright that his claim to have known nothing of Ridsdale’s offences when so many others did was simply implausible.

He rejected the suggestion, saying it was only implausible if there was evidence he had been told about Ridsdale.

He blamed Bishop Mulkearns, saying his then-superior had known of the complaints about Ridsdale interfering with children but had not told him.

Commissioner Peter McClellan asked: ‘You say the bishop deceived you, is that right?’

Cardinal Pell replied: ‘Unfortunately, correct.’

He described Bishop Mulkearns’ failure to stop Ridsdale as ‘extraordinary and reprehensible’.

After Tuesday’s hearing, survivors in Rome to see Cardinal Pell give evidence visited a refuge for Catholic Australian pilgrims to tie ribbons in support of those who suffered abuse.

The survivors, who were sexually abused as children by pedophile priests in the Victorian diocese of Ballarat, tied coloured ribbons to a window of Domus Australia, a guest house and support centre for pilgrims set up with the cardinal’s backing.

The ribbon tying is part of the Loud Fence campaign started by three women in Ballarat to show support for survivors when they went to court to confront and testify against their abusers.

The cardinal will resume his evidence from the Hotel Quirinale in Rome on Wednesday at 0800 AEDT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers.