Vatican Treasurer ‘Should Have Done More’ on Abuse Claims

Cardinal George Pell testifies via video link in an Australian child abuse inquiry.
Cardinal George Pell testifies via video link from Rome at Australia's Royal Commission into institutional child abuse in Sydney, Australia, March 3. Pell has said he should have acted on rumors of child sex abuse in Australia in the 1970s. via Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse/Reuters

Cardinal George Pell admitted he “should have done more” after failing to act after an Australian child told him about a pedophile priest.

The Vatican treasurer, formerly the Archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney, has been giving evidence to an Australian Royal Commission into child abuse set up in 2012, largely to investigate allegations of abuse by members of the Catholic Church.

Pell told the commission on Thursday that a schoolboy at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, in Australia’s southern Victoria state, had told him in 1974 that Brother Edward Dowlan—who later changed his name to Ted Bales and was jailed in 2015 for six years for abusing young boys in the 1970s and 1980s—had been “misbehaving with boys,” according to The Guardian.

When asked by the commission why he failed to act on the comments, Pell said that “there were no specifics about the activity, how serious it was and the boy wasn’t asking me to do anything about it but just lamenting and mentioning.”

Pell has been giving testimony via video link from Rome after he was excused from traveling to Sydney due to a heart condition. The cardinal said he would hold a private meeting with a group of Australian abuse survivors, who had traveled to Rome to witness the his testimony. The group is hoping to arrange a meeting with Pope Francis, who has previously vowed to root out abusers from the church and set up a new tribunal in June 2015 to hear cases of bishops who allegedly covered up abuse by priests under their remit.

During Thursday’s testimony, Pell also denied that he had offered a bribe to David Ridsdale, the nephew of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale. David Ridsdale has alleged that Pell offered him money not to speak out about the abuse, the BBC reported.

Pell also said it was was a “disastrous coincidence” that five pedophiles came to be working in the same school and parish in Ballarat in the 1970s. The claim was rejected by abuse survivor Stephen Wood, who said that the prevalence of pedophile members of the clergy in Ballarat showed that the problem was “systemic,” according to the BBC.