Cardinal George Pell.
Cardinal George Pell.

Report: Pell aware of paedophile abuse decades earlier

Cardinal George Pell's claims that he was unaware of abuse by notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale have been rejected.

Secret findings of the child sexual abuse royal commission relating to Cardinal Pell were finally released today.

In its unredacted report, the child sexual abuse royal commission shot down claims Cardinal Pell tried to silence family friend and abuse victim David Ridsdale by bribing him, saying it would have made no sense for the cardinal to do so.

Cardinal Pell claimed he did not know of the offending until the 1990s, but the royal commission said those claims were unbelievable, and that he would have known by the 1970s.

"It does not logically follow that a bishop would deceive his appointed consultors," the report said. "It is likely that he knew of Ridsdale's sexual transgressions."

Cardinal Pell was also aware that, when he was assistant priest of Ballarat East, Ridsdale used to take groups of boys away on overnight camps, which was unusual.

He thought about the prudence of this in the context of an awareness that priests could sexually abuse children.

The unredacted reports of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have been tabled in full in the Senate morning.

Cardinal Pell was a key witness in hearings in the Ballarat and Melbourne dioceses where he worked alongside notorious paedophiles and held senior positions.

The commission probed his knowledge and handling of the abuse crisis that plagued the Catholic Church.

But its findings about Cardinal Pell remained redacted - until today - because of his long running criminal prosecution and subsequent successful appeal.

Following Cardinal Pell's High Court win, and release from jail, Victorian attorney general Jill Hennessy wrote to her federal counterpart to advise there was nothing stopping the release of the commission's findings.

Testifying to the royal commission, Cardinal Pell said he was the victim of a widespread deception, lasting decades, that kept him in the dark about child abuse.

But counsel assisting asked the commission to find he was involved in knowingly shuffling at least one paedophile priest between parishes.

And there was strong evidence implicating him in a Catholic Church cover-up, it was submitted.

Cardinal Pell has strongly denied the claims.

Pell was a Ballarat priest from 1973 until 1984, overseeing the diocese's schools and at times acting as an adviser to the bishop.

He also served as one of the Melbourne archbishop's advisers while an auxiliary bishop between 1987 and 1996.

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