Pell: Dealing with paedophile priest 'a catastrophe'

THE way the Australian Roman Catholic Church dealt with a paedophile priest in Ballarat was a "catastrophe", according to Cardinal George Pell.

Giving evidence from Rome, Cardinal Pell was asked his view on former Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who has long been accused of ignoring sex abuse within the church.

When Cardinal Pell was asked if he was critical of Bishop Mulkearns' conduct, the Cardinal said the bishop's handling of paedophile Gerald Risdale was "a catastrophe".

"I have just re-read the file of Ridsdale. The priest. Ex-priest," Cardinal Pell said.

"And the way he was dealt with was a catastrophe.

"A catastrophe for the victims and a catastrophe for the church.

"If effective action had been taken earlier, an enormous amount of suffering would've been avoided."

Mr Risdale was convicted between 1993 and 2013 on charges of sexyal abuse and indecent assault that involved 54 children, including some as young as four.

Cardinal Pell said Risdale was given "chance after chance" while the church trusted the psychological help he was being given.

"I think in at least one case, was being treated for anxiety, not to help him with his paedophilia".

The gallery chuckled when Cardinal Pell was asked if the priest was feeling anxious because he was about to be charged in relation to his paedophilia.

Cardinal Pell said he was not aware of these events at the time.

Church had a "general practice" of not reporting abuse to police

CARDINAL George Pell has admitted the church had a "general practice" of not calling the police when it learned of sexual assaults, instinctually acting to protect the institution ahead of victims.

Cardinal Pell was being asked about his views -- given in the 1980s -- that the church generally did not believe children when they made these allegations.

The Cardinal said he believes those were now an "over-statement" but conceded that children were often not listened to.

He said there was no formal policy to dismiss such allegations but unofficially, "sometimes they were dismissed in absolutely scandalous circumstances".

These were when victims made "very, very,very plausible allegations made by responsible people that were not followed up sufficiently".

Cardinal Pell said the instinct of many was to protect the church and its community "from shame".

When asked if there was a tendency not to refer such incidents to police, Cardinal Pell said it was "general practice" but that people were not prevented or impeded "but they were certainly rarely encouraged".

Italian Police reviewing Australian TV vision, after Cardinal Pell's security guards allegedly strong-arm media. Photo: Hugh Whitfeld, Seven News, via Twitter
Italian Police reviewing Australian TV vision, after Cardinal Pell's security guards allegedly strong-arm media. Photo: Hugh Whitfeld, Seven News, via Twitter

PELL ON THE STAND: Chuch made enormous mistakes

CARDINAL George Pell has told the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse that the church had made some 'enormous mistakes'.

"Let me just say this, as an initial clarification, and that is I'm not here to defend the indefensible.

"The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those but the church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down. I'm not here to defend the indefensible.

But he also defended the Australian response to the crisis.

"I would also say there are very few countries in the world who have advanced as far as the Catholic Church has in Australia in putting procedures into place nearly 20 years ago. I think that's a matter of record."

Cardinal Pell is giving evidence to the commission via video link from Rome.
Earlier, members of the Australian media have allegedly been shoved and punched by security guards surrounding Cardinal George Pell in Rome.

The Cardinal arrived at an elegant Rome hotel, where he will make his third appearance before the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, via a side gate three hours early on Monday.

As the Cardinal was arriving at the hotel however, his security guards allegedly took forceful action to protect him from the waiting media.

Channel Nine reporter Amelia Ballinger said cameramen were pushed and shoved, while one reporter was punched.

"Before he even got out of the car a number of big, burly security guards got out before him and they basically assaulted, I guess, for want of a better word, the [television] crew that was waiting there for him," Ballinger said.

"Our cameraman was pushed over, another journalist waiting to question [Cardinal] Pell was punched in the stomach, and [Cardinal] Pell went in without any of us being able to question him."

More on this at