Sunday 21 January 2018

Cardinal denies he tried to buy the silence of abuse victim

Cardinal George Pell
Cardinal George Pell

Dan Eaves in Sydney

Australia’s former top Catholic cleric – now Pope Francis’s finance chief – has denied trying to bribe a victim of a paedophile priest to keep quiet as an inquiry heard of horrifying abuse.

Cardinal George Pell spoke out yesterday as abuse survivors demanded he return to Australia to give evidence to a royal commission on the allegations.

David Ridsdale, who was abused from the age of 11 by his uncle, Gerald Ridsdale, a notorious paedophile priest who is now in jail, told the commission that he confided in family friend Cardinal Pell about the sex assaults in 1993.

He alleged that Cardinal Pell, who was appointed by Pope Francis in February 2014 to make the Vatican’s finances more transparent, went on to ask what it would cost to buy his silence.

The cardinal was also accused of helping to move the disgraced priest between parishes.

Cardinal Pell has denied trying to bribe David Ridsdale or his family or “offer any financial inducements for him to be silent”.

“Over the last 24 hours I have been accused of being complicit in the moving of a known paedophile, of ignoring a victim’s complaint and of bribery,” he said in a statement.

Cardinal Pell gave evidence in March 2014 to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was called after a decade of pressure to investigate wide-ranging allegations of paedophilia in Australia. The commission has heard harrowing allegations of child abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools.

The hearings this week have focused on the shocking abuse in the 1970s in the regional town of Ballarat.

It heard that every male child aged between 10 and 16 at the St Alipius primary school, where Ridsdale and other paedophile priests worked, was thought to have been molested.

One survivor held up a photograph of his class of 33 boys and said that 12 of them had committed suicide.

Nicky Davis, leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Cardinal Pell should appear before the commission again.

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