A high ranking Vatican official has testified before a commission that his senior clergy lied to him to cover up child sexual abuse in the 70’s.
Australian Cardinal George Pell, the highest ranking Vatican official to testify before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse said the matter was of no interest to him at the time.
“I couldn’t say that I ever knew that everyone knew. I knew a number of people did, I didn’t know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn’t. It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me,” Pell said.
I didn't know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn't
Pell’s testimony to the commission into sexual abuse cases that occurred decades ago has taken on wider implications about the accountability of church leaders given his high rank within the church.
He also told the Commission he was deceived about why offending priests were moved from parish to parish.
Pell was pressed by a Commissioner, Peter McClellan about his assertion that he knew nothing of the incidents involving Father Gerald Ridsdale who was convicted of 138 offences against more than 50 children.
At the time, Cardinal Pell was tasked with giving advice to the regional bishop on the appointments of priests to particular parishes but he denied there was any discussion of Ridsdale being a paedophile at a meeting he attended in 1982.
Pell also denied accusations made at the Commission’s hearings last year that he had tried to bribe a victim to remain quiet.
Sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic church became public knowledge in 2002, when it was discovered that U.S. bishops in the Boston area moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them.
Similar scandals have since been discovered around the world and tens of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation.