Live coverage | "I suggest very directly that you are lying”

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  • Lawyers representing victims of abuse are now questioning Cardinal Pell
  • Cardinal Pell has clarified his comment from earlier in the week about the abuses of Gerald Ridsdale that shocked many, in which he said it was a "sad story" but that it "wasn't of much interest to me".
  • He said this morning: "I remember messing up the sequence completely. I regret the choice of words. I was very confused. I responded poorly."
  • Cardinal Pell says it was a “disastrous coincidence" had such a cluster of paedophile priests

1:12pm: David Ridsdale has just told media there will be a meeting with Cardinal Pell at 11:30am (9.30pm tonight). 

He said there will be no restrictions on the meeting and he expects a full statement from the Caridnal afterwards.

12:52pm: It was a frustrating morning for the lawyers representing the victims, who struggled with time limitations. Barrister Jim Shaw eventually came straight out to Pell with: "I suggest very directly that you are lying about this to protect your own reputation."

We heard about an alleged phone call between victim David Ridsdale and Cardinal Pell, during which Ridsdale claimed Pell offered him a bribe to keep silent. He allegedly rejected the offer with the words: "F- you and all you stand for." Cardinal Pell denied he made the offer and said: "That certainly did not happen."

We heard Cardinal Pell say the congregation of such a large number of paedophiles in Ballarat at that time was "a disastrous coincidence".

It was put to Cardinal Pell that he had been overheard saying of Gerald Ridsdale: "Haha, I think Gerry's been rooting boys again."Cardinal Pell denied the allegation.

Cardinal Pell clarified his comment from earlier in the week about the abuses of Gerald Ridsdale: he said it was a "sad story" but that it "wasn't of much interest to me". He said this morning: "I remember messing up the sequence completely. I regret the choice of words. I was very confused. I responded poorly."

12:44pm: Gail Furness, counsel assisting the Commission, is now wrapping up loose ends. 

12:40pm: That concludes Cardinal Pell's evidence. He walks out. 

12:37pm: We're now hearing about Cardinal Pell asking Father Searson to resign in 1997. "He wasn't at all pleased," Cardinal Pell says. He says that Searson "fought a good fight" and the matter had to be taken to Rome to remove him. He says Rome did not support his decision. "I just ignored the Roman decision and Rome didn't push the point."

12:33pm: The line of questioning is still fairly opaque. We can assume there will be some payoff shortly from the Cardinal's lawyer. 

12:32pm: We're into the last half an hour of Cardinal George Pell's testimony... 

12:19pm: Cardinal Pell's lawyer asks to show the Cardinal a diary entry from 1983. It is Pell's diary. They look at September 5. 

12:16pm: Cardinal Pell's lawyer takes him back to the early 1970s and asks whether he had ever visited Gerald Ridsdale in Apollo Bay, Inglewood, Eaglehope or Mortlake. Cardinal Pell says he had never visited Ridsdale in any of those places.

12:14pm: Cardinal Pell is being shown a document about his study leave between May and August in 1979. He says he was overseas in May-August 1979. 

He is then shown a letter dated September 25 1979 from Cardinal Pell to Bishop Mulkearns.

The letter concerns a request for the Cardinal to become editor of a publication called Light. He did not want the role. "I was already very, very busy."

12:07pm: Duggan asks Cardinal Pell whether the police had ever warned him that Gerald Ridsdale would be a risk of abusing a child.

Cardinal Pell: "No, never."

12:06pm: Now it’s time to hear from Pell’s lawyer, Duggan. He is expected to question for half an hour.

11:38am: The hearing has been adjourned for 20 minutes. 

When we return, we'll have the final two hours of Cardinal George Pell's testimony. Key points from this morning so far:

- The Commission heard that David Ridsdale – the nephew of abuser Gerald Ridsdale - had rejected Cardinal Pell's alleged offer of a bribe with the words: "F- you and all you stand for." Cardinal Pell responded: "That certainly did not happen."

- Cardinal Pell was confronted about why he accompanied Gerald Ridsdale to court in 1993. He said: "I now realise that was a mistake."

- Cardinal Pell said the congregation of such a large number of paedophiles in Ballarat at that time was "a disastrous coincidence".

- It was put to Cardinal Pell that he had been overheard saying of Gerald Ridsdale: "Haha, I think Gerry's been rooting boys again."Cardinal Pell denied the allegation.

- Cardinal Pell said a boy came to him about the abuses inflicted by Father Dowlan. He said he ran the rumours past the school chaplain but did nothing more at that time because  "the boy wasn't asking me to do anything".

11:31am: The lawyer appears for Truth, Justice and Healing, the Christian Brothers and the diocese of Ballarat. 

11:30am: Check out this great video showing the enormous support the Loud Fence movement has created.

11:25am: We're rattling through the lawyers now. Carmen Randazzo takes the stage. 

11:19am: The lawyer for victim Julie Stewart takes Cardinal Pell through details of her appalling abuse at the hands of Father Searson in the Doveton parish. 

11:16am: Cardinal Pell is asked more generally about the suffering of victims of abuse and torture by priests.

He responds: "I've read many of their stories, they are harrowing stories and I feel deeply for them."

11:09am: A new lawyer takes up the charge on behalf of three women victims of Father Searson and Father Pickering.

11:07am: Cardinal Pell is now asked about Graeme Sleeman, the teacher who tried to blow the whistle on abuser Father Searson. 

It is put to the Cardinal that he rang Sleeman and said: "What can I do for you?" And he said that he wanted Cardinal Pell to go to the media about Searson.

Cardinal Pell: "I thought it was extravagant and I was unable to accept it."

Pell is asked did he understand what Sleeman had gone through as a headmaster trying to protect his pupils from a paedophile priest.

11:02am: Commission chair McClellan puts it to Cardinal that around 1991 he was "in the loop" that Father Searson was a risk to children. 

Cardinal Pell says the issue was what the level of risk was and what could be done. He says "the responsibility was with the education office". 

10:58am: Meanwhile in Melbourne Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters he would not offer a "running commentary" on the cardinal's evidence.

But Andrews said he hoped the cardinal would "find it in his heart" to meet with the abuse survivors who had travelled to Rome. 

Mr Andrews declined to comment on whether the Cardinal Pell should stand down. 

"I think what's most important is that the cardinal has given his evidence. I think we all would have preferred if that had been much closer to home. But ultimately he was deemed to be unwell."

10:51am: Cardinal Pell says the reason for Father Searson loitering around the children's toilets was "unseemly" but that Searson said he was ensuring there was no graffiti.

A lot of the focus is on the Archdiocese of Melbourne again for the moment.

10:34am: Cardinal Pell is now being asked about Father Peter Searson, who was in charge of the parishes in Sunbury and Doveton.

10:31am: Cardinal Pell concedes a proper church investigation could have stopped at least one suicide by a victim of abuse. Once again, Pell blames Mulkearns for not acting.

10:30am: The Courier has set up a message wall for the abuse survivors and victims and it has flooded with support. Post your message here.

10:27am: Cardinal Pell is now being asked about Father Ronald Pickering and whether he had investigated rumours about him. Father Pickering was a minister at several Melbourne parishes where he abused boys until he fled the country for the UK in 1993. 

10:21am: David O'Brien now appears for a victim of Father Paul David Ryan, known as "BPD", who wasassaulted aged 17.  

10.17am: The latest update from Melissa Cunningham:

Ballarat clerical abuse victim Phil Nagle said this week's proceedings of the child sex abuse inquiry is "killing survivors inside" by they are keeping a brave face.

"The Ballarat survivors came to Rome for truth and honesty from George," Mr Nagle said. " We feel that we have been deceived and lied to. The Royal Commission at some stage in the future will give a recommendation on the evidence given by George. George has not been honest or truthful. George will have to live with the consequences of this chosen course."  

Ballarat clergy survivor David Ridsdale, who’s phone conversation with Cardinal Pell was the subject of intense cross-examination earlier,  was unable to comment during the inquiry's break as he is in negotiations with senior Vatican officials to determine the particulars of meetings planned between sex abuse victims and Cardinal George Pell and Pontifical Commission for Minors on Thursday morning (Rome time).

Peter Blekniron, Phil Nagle and Gordon Hill face the media scrum.

Peter Blekniron, Phil Nagle and Gordon Hill face the media scrum.

Childhood sexual abuse victim Manny Waks also addressed the media outside the Hotel Quirinale in Rome also called for Pope Francis to intervene and call for Cardinal Pell to resign immediately.

He said child sexual abuse was not just limited to the Catholic Church and was rampant across the world.  

David Ridsdale and Phil Nagle.

David Ridsdale and Phil Nagle.

10.15am: Shaw: "can you point to a single untrue allegation made by a child in the Ballarat diocese, one?"

Pell cannot.

10:13am: Barrister Jim Shaw is clearly losing patience, with time running short. He puts it to Cardinal Pell: "I suggest very directly that you are lying about this to protect your own reputation."

Pell denies the allegation.

10:11am: Barrister Jim Shaw: "Your memory works in mysterious ways Cardinal."

Barrister Jim Shaw.

Barrister Jim Shaw.

10:08am: Barrister Jim Shaw brings Cardinal Pell back to an earlier comment that priests who offended would have been sent away for counselling "for a first offence". 

10:04am: The hearing has recommenced. Time pressures are weighing on everyone now. 

10am: Stephen Woods, another victim of Gerald Ridsdale, has also spoken to the media outside the hearing in Rome a short time ago. He said:

"Cardinal Pell said that when asked why there were so many paedophiles in Ballarat, he said it was just a tragic coincidence. Coincidence, my foot.

"They clearly colluded and so it raises this very serious question about what is wrong with the thinking amongst the leaders in the church that they don't want to know what has gone so seriously and tragically wrong that we have to come to the other side of the world to get answers.

"We are wishing the Pope intervenes here. The Pope is willing to meet with us and just hear our concerns, hear the pain of so many thousands of victims in Australia and that this is shedding such bad light on the church and shedding such bad light on everybody who says that the Catholics are good."

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW

9:45am: Recapping now the key points of this morning's first session. 

- Claims Cardinal Pell had offered to bribe victim David Ridsdale to stop him going to the police. It has been alleged that during a phone call with David Ridsdale Cardinal Pell said: "What would it take for you to keep quiet?" Today he said that claim was "implausible".

- The Commission heard that David Ridsdale – the nephew of abuser Gerald Ridsdale - had rejected Cardinal Pell's offer of a bribe with the words: "F- you and all you stand for." Cardinal Pell responded: "That certainly did not happen."

- Cardinal Pell was confronted about why he accompanied Gerald Ridsdale to court in 1993. He said: "I now realise that was a mistake."

- Cardinal Pell said the congregation of such a large number of paedophiles in Ballarat at that time was "a disastrous coincidence".

- It was put to Cardinal Pell that he had been overheard saying of Gerald Ridsdale: "Haha, I think Gerry's been rooting boys again." Cardinal Pell denied the allegation.

- It was put to Cardinal Pell that a boy came to see him about the abuses of Brother Dowlan in Ballarat. It was claimed that Cardinal Pell became angry and slammed the door on the boy.  The boy claimed: "Pell became angry, yelled at me 'Young man, how dare you knock at this door and make demands.'" Pell denied any knowledge of the incident and speculated that the evidence was "a fantasy". 

9:30am: While we wait for the hearing to resume, watch the video of George Pell denying asking David Ridsdale, a nephew and victim of pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale, to keep quiet.

9:20am: The Commission breaks for an adjournment. They will return for further questioning at 10am our time. ​

9:19am: Jim Shaw carefully outlines how Cardinal Pell was "very heavily involved in the life of Ballarat at that time", which he describes as an "epicentre" of abuse in Australia.

They spar over the Cardinal's comment that Father Ridsdale was a "sad story" but that it "wasn't of much interest to me".

Cardinal Pell says that the comment was taken out of context.

It is read back to him verbatim.

9:16am: VIDEO | George Pell: “I responded poorly” to Ridsdale accounts 

9:11am: Barrister Jim Shaw (pictured) now appears for two survivors of abuse in Ballarat.

He asks Cardinal Pell what happened when he met the Pope on Tuesday and whether he discussed his evidence with him. 

Pell says he has arranged for Pope Francis to recieve a daily summary of his testimony to Royal Commission on Child Abuse.

9:07am: Cardinal Pell is being asked about the time Father Ryan was sent to the United States for treatment for a problem of a sexual nature.

9:03am: Here's a shot of Cardinal Pell arriving for the hearing today.

Father Paul David Ryan, arrested and charged with indecent assault in 2006.

Father Paul David Ryan, arrested and charged with indecent assault in 2006.

8:59am: Cardinal Pell is now being told about a complaint against Father Ryan prior to his ordination, when a mother was concerned about her sons and how he behaved towards them as a teacher. The mother said she complained directly to Bishop Mulkearns, who dismissed it.

Cardinal Pell is asked whether that complaint was passed on to him. He says it was not.

Had he been informed would he have acted?

"Absolutely."

​8:52am: Cardinal Pell is now being asked about the paedophile Father Paul Ryan. He says he had some concerns prior to Father Ryan's ordination about the man's sexuality. 

"Obviously if a priest is going to be homosexually active that is going to be a concern."

8:43am: It's put to Cardinal Pell that he could have stopped Brother Dowlan's abuses. He denies it. 

8:42am: Lawyer O’Brien going extremely hard at Pell, easily the most aggressive line of questioning thus far.

Cardinal Pell: "I had no idea the Christian Brothers were covering up in the way in which it is now apparent."

8:33am: Lawyer O'Brien then brings up evidence that the boy who said he approached Pell much later in life told his ex-wife of the incident.

Peter O'Brien was aggressive in his questioning of Cardinal Pell.

Peter O'Brien was aggressive in his questioning of Cardinal Pell.

Cardinal Pell speculates that the evidence is "a fantasy".

"It might have happened with some other individual but it didn't happen with me."

8:25am: The questioning now focuses on whether it was possible for Cardinal Pell to have been in that particular presbytery at that time. 

8:24am: It's put to Cardinal Pell that a boy came to see Pell about abuses by Brother Dowlan.

The boy said he went to see Pell at a presbytery, knocked on the door, then when Pell came to the door, "I just blurted out to Pell that Dowlan had beaten and molested (pseudonym)." The boy gave evidence that Cardinal Pell became angry and slammed the door on him.

Today Cardinal Pell says: "If anything like this happened, it didn't happen with me."

This is the boy's full evidence:

"I was very upset about what happened so that same week during some free time, I went to the presbytery to seek out Father Pell, who was a well known influential priest in the area. 

"I wanted someone of authority outside of the school to know about what was happening there and someone who would be able to do something about it. I knocked on the door, someone answered the door, but I cannot remember who it was. 

"I asked to see Father George Pell and that person went to get him. I was angry about the situation and also frightened and nervous about approaching a high-ranking priest such as Pell because I was so nervous I just blurted out to Pell that Dowlan had beaten and molested BWG, his brother, and demanded to know what he, Pell, was going to do about it. 

"Pell became angry, yelled at me "Young man, how dare you knock at this door and make demands”." We argued for a bit and told me to go away and shut the door on me."

8:20am: A lawyer now appears to represent another victim represented by a pseudonym. He says the victim was one of three brothers, one of whom was beaten savagely at St Patrick's in Ballarat. 

8:18am: Cardinal Pell says he agreed to walk with paedophile Gerald Ridsdale to court to try and get him a lesser jail term. He is now being pressed on whether he was also contacted to provide a reference for Ridsdale. He says no reference ever surfaced. 

8:11am: The lawyer for victim Paul Levey is now questioning Cardinal Pell.

Paul Levey was 14 years old when he lived in the presbytery in Mortlake with the paedophile Gerald Ridsdale and was abused nearly every day. Below is a photo from that time of Paul with Ridsdale.

8:09am: Cardinal Pell is asked whether he thinks he is the target of a witch hunt. Doe he feel victimised?

"I am vey keen to clearly demonstrate when false claims are made against me that I explain the grounds why they are false."

8:05am: It's put to Cardinal Pell that he was overheard by an altar boy that he said of paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale: "Haha, Gerry's been rooting boys again."

He denies the allegation.

8:04am: Cardinal Pell says the aggregation of paedophiles in Ballarat was "a disastrous coincidence". 

He is asked does he feel any moral responsibility to the survivors.

Cardinal Pell: "Of course I regret that situation was there and I didn't have the information to do something to help."

He says: "All of those things were hidden to nearly everyone in the parish."

8:00am: A new lawyer takes up the questioning, asking why there were so many episodes of sexual abuse in Ballarat at that period of time.

7:57am: It's put to Pell that in a phone call he tried to bribe David Ridsdale to keep him quiet, at which point David Ridsdale told Cardinal Pell: "F- you and all you stand for."

Cardinal Pell responds: "That certainly did not happen."

7:56am: Cardinal Pell is now asked why he accompanied paedophile Gerald Ridsdale to court. 

"The only thing I would say is that as a priest he had done other good things."

He says his lawyer asked him to accompany Ridsale to court. "I now realise that was a mistake."

He elaborates: "I walked with him following the Christian conviction that it's an appropriatee activity to be kind to prisoners, as you would be well aware, that's one of the criteria that's listed in the final judgement, the separation of the sheep from the goats."

7:47am: Could Cardinal Pell not have asked others in the church for money to help David Ridsdale?

Cardinal Pell: "None of my friends would have been open to providing resources for a bribe."

7:46am: Balloons with bright, colourful ribbons tied to them were released into the air near the Town Hall yesterday. Read about it here.

7:41am: Cardinal Pell denies trying to bribe David Ridsale to stop him going to the police. He says the claim was "implausible". 

"What was implausible was his claim that I'd tried to bribe him. I accepted his claim that he'd been abused."

7:36am: Cardinal Pell has brought up that he accompanied notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale to court in 1993, and says that might have upset David Ridsdale:

"I suspect the fact I accompanied his uncle to court is something that would have upset (David)". Here's a file photo of Cardinal Pell accompanying Gerald Ridsdale: 

7:34am: This update has just come on from Melissa Cunningham in Rome:

Andrew Collins said survivors were feeling positive coming into the last night of Cardinal Pell's evidence.

He said clergy abuse victims were initially angry but they were now looking forward to meeting with Cardinal Pell now that was prepared to drop conditions including stopping survivors form speaking to the media about what was discussed at  the meeting.

"We want to work out with Cardinal Pell the best way forward for future children," Mr Collins.

"We want systems in place to ensure this never, ever happens again. We want help to heal the damage of the past and he still has the power to change things but we need this process to be completely transparent."

7:29am: Cardinal Pell on victim David Ridsdale: "I regarded him as a friend so I was a bit more relaxed and loose in my approach to him in how I could help him."

"I spoke to him at some length. He did not ask me to do anything. If he had asked me to do one or a number of things I certainly would have done so."

Did Cardinal Pell try to stop David Ridsdale from contacting the police about Gerald Ridsdale's abuses?

"I don't think there is any evidence for that at all. Certainly that was not what I was trying to do."

7:27am: Cardinal Pell is asked if he ever provided any financial support to David Ridsdale. 

He says he can't really recall but doesn't think so. "I was keen to provide any help I could."

Did he seek counselling for David Ridsdale?

"That was certainly one of the possibilities that went through my mind ... I would have been happy to do so."

7:24am: Rogers brings up Cardinal Pell's comment earlier in the week about the abuses of Gerald Ridsale that shocked many , in which he said it was a "sad story" but that it "wasn't of much interest to me".

Today Cardinal Pell responds: "I remember messing up the sequence completely. I regret the choice of words. I was very confused. I responded poorly."

7:20am: Did Cardinal Pell feel sorry for David Ridsdale?

"Absolutely."

7:18am: The line of questioning regarding Cardinal Pell allegedly trying to bribe David Ridsdale into silence continues.

The claim was first made publicly in May, last year. You can read about it here.

7:12am: Rogers refers to a phone call between Cardinal Pell and David Ridsdale in which it is claimed the Cardinal said to Ridsdale: "What would it take for you to keep quiet?"

Cardinal Pell responds: "I certainly don't accept that."

7:10am: David Ridsdale’s lawyer is up first. David is in the front row of the hearing.

7:05am: While we stand by for the Commission to begin its proceedings for what is expected to be the last day of Cardinal Pell's testimony, here's what happened yesterday:

Special Counsel Gail Furness completed her questioning on behalf of the Royal Commission.

Lawyers representing the victims are now questioning the Cardinal

Cardinal Pell said that the The Catholic Education Office in Victoria and the former Archbishop of Melbourne Frank Little covered up serious sex claims against a priest

He described the period under examination as an "extraordinary world of crimes and cover ups and people did not want the status quo to be disturbed".

The evidence focused heavily on Doveton priest Father Peter Searson, and on priests who were allowed to resign on the pretext of ill health

Father Searson was a bizarre character who carried a gun, stabbed a bird to death with a screwdriver and abused children during confession

Father Searson held a knife to a young girl's chest in church and told her: "If you move, this will go through you"

Cardinal Pell described Searson as "a disconcerting man, in fact in his worst moments he could be described as one of the most unpleasant priests I've met ... he was a difficult customer"

But he also said: "We did not have sufficient evidence to remove him"

7:03am: While we wait for the hearing to start, let’s hear from The Courier’s Melissa Cunningham in Rome, who just crossed live with Ballarat-based survivor Andrew Collins.

7am: Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of today’s hearing.

The hearing has started an hour earlier and is expected to run an hour later, scheduled to finish at 1pm today.