Cardinal George Pell has told the child sex abuse inquiry that the responsibility for the protection of children is not equal for all ordained clergy.
The cardinal was explaining why the shocking story of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale abusing children in the Victorian parish of Ballarat was not of much interest to him at the time.
In the second day of a hearing in which Cardinal Pell is giving evidence by video link from Rome, the counsel for the child sex abuse Royal commission Gail Furness SC pressed him of how it was that Ridsdale’s offences were common knowledge in at least two parishes but escaped his notice.
Ms Furness: “What was not of much interest to you?”
Cardinal Pell: “The suffering of course was real and I very much regret that, but I have no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated.”
He was asked if it was not necessary to avoid repeat offences to fully understand the circumstances of cases like Ridsdale.
The cardinal said that everyone in the church approached the task differently according to their level of responsibility.
Ms Furness asked him if he was saying it was not the case that if a parish priest heard of events dangerous to children happening in a neighbouring parish or a distant parish he had no responsibility to the children who were in danger.
Cardinal Pell: “Well, very obviously I said nothing of the sort. I said that a person from a neighbouring parish or distant parish has less responsibility for the care of children in those distant parishes than he does in his own.”
He told commission chair Justice Peter McClellan that he agreed that every member of the church had a responsibility to do what they could to protect children.
He also agreed that office bearers had a greater responsibility.
Cardinal Pell also said that Bishop Ronald Mulkearns lied to him about Ridsdale.