Giving his testimony before Australia’s royal commission into child sexual abuse, Cardinal Pell said, “I hope that my appearance here has contributed a bit to healing, to improving the situation”.
Survivors expressed great displeasure at his evidence, saying it at times lacked empathy and transparency. Cardinal Pell admitted he should have done more about rumors of child abuse in the 1970s.
“I regret that I didn’t do more at that stage,” Cardinal Pell told the child abuse royal commission on Wednesday.
He admitted to hearing stories about a Christian Brother, Ted Dowlan who taught at St Patrick’s College, when he was the Episcopal Vicar for Education in the diocese of Ballarat but assumed his case was being dealt with.
Pell said that when the young student came to him to say Brother Edward Dowlan was abusing children, he “didn’t do anything about it” aside from tell a chaplain because he believed then that was all he had to do.
Dowlan was removed from the school after admitting that he had abused children. He went on to abuse children at a number of other schools and has since been jailed twice.
Speaking via video link from Rome, the cardinal said there were “unfortunate rumours” about Dowlan relating to “possibly excessive discipline and violence” as well as sexual activity. “It was always vague and unspecific,” he added.
Edward Dowlan has been convicted of indecently assaulting about 30 boys.
The Cardinal was also questioned about Peter Searson, a former priest who was accused of abusing young children when the cardinal was an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne.
“I don’t think I was obliged to do anything more than I did, because I took it to the archbishop and asked what should be done,” the cardinal said.
“In retrospect, I might have been a bit more pushy with all the parties involved.”
Victims of sex abuse traveled to Rome to hear the 74-year-old cleric give his evidence to the Royal commission into child sex abuse, but they said they had lost faith in him, following his evidence.
Ballarat survivor Philip Nagle said on Wednesday that victims feel they have been lied to and deceived and had grown increasingly frustrated by Cardinal Pell’s failure to accept any responsibility for the sexual abuse of children at the hands of the clergy. The survivors sent a fax to the Pope requesting a meeting before they depart Rome.
“Pell has made it very clear he does not have the ability, the power or the interest… so we need to speak to the boss,” abuse victim David Ridsdale said.
“This is about children,” the note faxed to the Vatican reads.
“Children that were abused and damaged in the past. Protecting children into the future.
“We would like to request a meeting to discuss a commitment to the children of the past and the children of the future to implement systems so this is never to be repeated,” the note added.