Thursday 3 March 2016
Media and Communications
YESTERDAY'S hearing moved from
events in Ballarat to events in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, particularly
relating to the time when Cardinal Pell was Auxiliary Bishop and a member of
the Curia and Personnel Advisory Board.
It was the third consecutive day in
which the Cardinal has given evidence via video link from Rome.
As Auxiliary Bishop, Cardinal Pell
was given pastoral responsibility for the Archdiocese's Southern Region, which
included the parish of Doveton.
Cardinal Pell said that he was
strongly critical of Archbishop Little's handling of sexual abuse complaints
against priests. In the case of Peter Searson, who was parish priest of
Doveton, the Cardinal said that the Archbishop had a lot of information
available to him which he did not share with Cardinal Pell.
He was asked about a letter Archbishop Little
received dealing with Searson pointing a handgun at some people. He said the
complaint should have been investigated and the complaint suggests Searson was
unsuitable to be a parish priest.
He was also taken to several other complaints
against Searson including inappropriately talking to children, having a tape
recorder in the confessional, having children kneel between his legs while
hearing their confessions, and concerns of sexual advances towards children.
The complaints were referred to several
church officials including Archbishop Little, the Vicar General and the
Catholic Education office. He said the complaints were a basis for standing
down Searson and Archbishop Little’s failure to act was indicative of his
‘blind spot’ in dealing with child abuse issues and his inclination to protect
the church from scandal. Cardinal Pell agreed this was a similar approach to
that taken by Bishop Mulkearns in Ballarat.
Cardinal Pell was asked about
various incidents involving Searson which had occurred before Cardinal Pell was
Auxiliary Bishop. He agreed that some of the matters should have been the subject
of proper inquiries and that they suggested that Searson was unsuitable to
continue to serve as a priest.
Taken to a list of grievances about
Searson that was presented to Cardinal Pell when, as Auxiliary Bishop, a
delegation from Doveton came to see him in 1989, Cardinal Pell said that he was
not given an adequate briefing by officers of the Catholic Education Office
about the long term issues with Searson at Doveton.
He said that they deceived him in
relation to Searson's behaviour. Asked why they would have done that, he said
that he was the ‘new boy on the block’ with a reputation for being outspoken
and they wanted to keep a lid on the situation. He suggested the CEO was acting
to protect Archbishop Little.
In relation to minutes of the
Personnel Advisory Board recording Fr Bill Baker's transfer from Eltham to
North Richmond in 1992, Cardinal Pell said that both Archbishop Little and
Bishop Peter Connors deceived him because they knew of Baker' s child sexual
abuse offence in Gladstone Park in 1978 but did not inform Cardinal Pell about
suggested to Cardinal Pell that his evidence regarding Searson and the reasons
he gave for not being briefed fully by the CEO were extraordinary and
‘implausible’ and designed to ‘deflected’ from his actions. Cardinal Pell
rejected this saying he can only tell the truth.
After putting to
Cardinal Pell a list of people claimed to have deceived or lied to him
including Archbishop Little, his Vicar General, Bishop Mulkearns and a number
of senior staff within the CEO, Ms Furness put to Cardinal Pell that his
position was ‘extraordinary’.
responded: ‘Counsel, this was an extraordinary world. A world of crimes and
cover-ups. And people did not want the status quo to be disturbed.’ He said
that when he became Archbishop he ‘turned the situation right around so that
the Melbourne Response procedures were light years ahead of all this
obfuscation and prevarication and deception’.
The hearing continues today.