Live coverage | ​Pell says Mulkearns’ failure to act was “extraordinary”


Cardinal George Pell appearing on day two of the hearing in Rome.

Cardinal George Pell appearing on day two of the hearing in Rome.

12.20pm: Thanks for joining our live coverage. We will continue to bring you more stories, reaction and photos as the afternoon unfolds.

Join us at 8am tomorrow.

Key points from today's hearing, which was at times very intense.

- The evidence focused on paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, who was moved from parish to parish as his abuses became known in local communities.

- Several senior church men known to Cardinal Pell knew of Ridsdale's abuses in several parishes.

- The most harrowing evidence concerned boy called Paul Levey, who was sent to live with Ridsdale in the Mortlake presbytery when he was 14. In a statement presented to the hearing Mr Levey said during that time he was "sexually abused all the time just about every day". 

- Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, of Ballarat, was among those who knew that Ridsdale had a 14-year-old boy living with him.

- Cardinal Pell's cousin, Father Nolan, knew Ridsdale had the boy there and that it was inappropriate and had him taken away.

- Throughout, Cardinal Pell denied any knowledge of Ridsdale's abuses, or knowledge of what was being said about him among his peers or in the communities.

- The morning climaxed with the minutes of a meeting in 1982 of the Consultors, who advised the Bishop on various matters. At this meeting it was discussed that Gerald Ridsdale should be moved again, from Mortlake to Sydney.

- Cardinal Pell, one of the Consultors at the meeting, denied there was any discussion of Ridsdale being a paedophile. He told the hearing today: "I knew nothing about his paedophilia. I knew he was a somewhat difficult person and obviously he had been shifted about quite a bit."

- Earlier in the day, Cardinal Pell provoked howls of shock in the hearing room in Sydney when he said of Ridsdale's abuse: "It's a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me".​

Paul Levey bravely addresses media supported by his counsellor after Cardinal Pell's evidence.Picture: Melissa Cunningham.

Paul Levey bravely addresses media supported by his counsellor after Cardinal Pell's evidence.Picture: Melissa Cunningham.

11.59am: The Royal Commission has now adjourned for the day.

11.55am: Watch the video of Pell claiming Bishop Ronald Mulkearns' deception over paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale was "a lie".

11.46am: The latest update from Melissa Cunningham in Rome:

Abuse victim Paul Levey appeared very upset and has been walked out of inquiry by supporters.

Cardinal Pell has remained emotionless throughout his evidence.

He has continually denied he knew about Ridsdale's sexual misconduct.

He has continually said he does not recall what was said at meetings discussing Ridsdale being shifted from parish to parish.

However, he said he can remember what wasn't said because he has studied it the minutes of high level church meetings he was present at.

"It could have other personal reasons why Ridsdale was shifted," he said.

"As always lead was given by bishop presumption was bishop was telling the truth."


11.44am: Commissioner McClellan continues to step in to probe Pell.

Commissioner McClellan: "Given you have no recollection of what actually happened at the meeting, is it reasonable for us to assume that you were told?”

Pell: “Bishop Mulkearns used euphemistic language to keep some of us in the dark.”

11:40am: Gail Furness and Cardinal Pell are continuing to spar over his recollections or otherwise of the 1982 Consultors' meeting in which moving Gerald Ridsdale ws discussed. Cardinal Pell says he accepts the minutes of the meeting, then gives a long, rambling answer.

11:32am: Commissioner McClellan (pictured below) has intervened to discuss the definition of paedophilia, with the suggestion that the church may not have defined sexual activity with adolescents as paedophilia. 

Cardinal Pell: "That's a theoretically possible classification."

11:28am: Gail Furness to Cardinal Pell: "What do you say you know in 1982 about Ridsdale?"

Cardinal Pell: "I knew nothing about his paedophilia. I knew he was a somewhat difficult person and obviously he had been shifted about quite a bit."

11:26am: Gail Furness now says that Cardinal Pell failed in his duty as a consultor to the Bishop because he did not seek the necessary information to give informed advice. 

11:24am: Cardinal Pell now says he "can recall very clearly that paedophilia was never mentioned". 

11:22am: Gail Furness asks Cardinal Pell whether it is is his evidence that: he cannot recall what happened at the 1982 Consultors' meeting except that he did recall paedophilia was not mentioned. 

11:21am: Cardinal Pell says he can't remember in that meeting in 1982 asking why Ridsdale had to move.

"Paedophilia was never mentioned."

"There was no reference by Bishop Mulkearns to paedophilia by Gerald Ridsdale at that meeting."

11:15am: The inquiry now comes to a meeting that occurred in 1982 that Cardinal Pell attended. It was a meeting of the Bishop's consultors that discussed moving Ridsdale from Mortlake to Sydney. 

Cardinal Pell says he couldn't remember "any of the meetings at which Ridsdale was discussed" until he studied the minutes. He now says in light of the minutes, he "certainly" has a recollection of the meeting.

11:05am: Commissioner McClellan is now taking Cardinal Pell through the evidence about Gerald Ridsdale, and asks: "and given the scandalous nature of his behaviour ... are you now saying there weren't any rumours that came to your ears?"

Cardinal Pell: "I wasn't working full-time in the dioscese".

10:57am: It's now emerging, piece by piece, that many people knew of Gerald Ridsdale's abuses: two parish communities, the bishop, parents, priests, and, now, Father Nolan, who was sent to Mortlake to deal with Ridsdale.

Father Nolan said he saw the boy in the presbytery and demanded that the child be removed. 

Monsignor Nolan was Cardinal Pell's first cousin.

10.55am: Check out The Courier’s full and extensive Royal Commission coverage here.

10.51am: Pell has just placed a lot of the blame solely on Bishop Ronald Mulkearns.

“Unfortunately I have to say I can't nominate any other bishop whose actions are so despicable. His refusal to act is extraordinary.”

10:46am: Gail Furness puts it to Cardinal Pell that the problem of the boy living with Gerald Ridsdale was widely known, including by Bishop Mulkearns. "Pretty close to common knowledge, wouldn't you agree?" 

10.45am: Look who is standing up for George Pell – Andrew Bolt.

10:38am: Gail Furness runs through several churchmen who knew Cardinal Pell at that time were aware that there was a boy living with Gerald Ridsdale in Mortlake. She questions Cardinal Pell on whether any of them had ever mentioned the boy. Cardinal Pell said they had not. 

10.37 am: Child sex abuse victim Paul Levey is being comforted by his partner Michele as his abuse at the hands of Gerald Ridsdale is addressed by the Commission.

Mr Levey is crouched over in chair with head in his hands. Mr Levey was forced to live with Ridsdale for a year.

Cardinal Pell denies ever knowing Mr Levey lived at the house.

Paul Levey and Andrew Collins in Rome yesterday.

Paul Levey and Andrew Collins in Rome yesterday.

10:33am: Gail Furness now turns to a statement from the mother of Paul Levy, the 14-year-old boy who was sent to live with Father Ridsdale. The mother recalled telling Bishop Mulkearns that she wanted the boy removed, and Mulkearns then told her there was nothing he could do as Ridsdale had Paul's father's approval and hung up on her.

Furness said the response was "nothing short of scandalous". "I suggest that he knowingly and deliberataly left that boy in danger."

And Cardinal Pell knew nothing of this?

Cardinal Pell: "No, nothing."

10:30am: Gail Furness asks Cardinal Pell if accepts any responsibility for Gerald Ridsdale being moved from parish to parish.

Cardinal Pell responds: "No, I do not."

10:24am: Cardinal Pell agrees that the church failed to protect children in Ballarat. "Certainly there was a gigantic failure of leadership."

10:20am: Gail Furness puts it to Cardinal Pell that had he known about the 14-year-old child living with the paedophile priest, he would have had him removed, wouldn't he? 

Cardinal Pell: "You can't wave a magic wand and correct every situation."

10:19am: Gail Furness returns to the "attitude" that priests tended to be believed over the claims of a child. She puts it to Cardinal Pell: "You also said yesterday that you would be inclined to accept the word of a priest who denied an allegation." 

Furness says Cardinal Pell suggested this was the common view until the mid-1980s. She then quotes what the Cardinal said yesterday, that if a priest denied allegations, "I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial".

10.12am: Further update from Melissa Cunningham on the ground in Rome:

Clergy sexual abuse survivor David Ridsdale said it was unfathomable that Cardinal Pell didn't know Ridsdale was offending.

"It seems every other member of clergy knew including Mulkearns and Monsignor Leo Fiscalini knew, but Cardinal Pell was the only one who had no idea about his sexual behaviour," he said.

Mr Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell is yet to acknowledged sexual abuse victims despite them sitting in his line of vision and staring intently at him throughout his evidence. 


10:03am: The Commission is now discussing yet another move by the priest Gerald Ridsdale, this time to Mortlake. 

We have also just received further update from Melissa Cunningham, who has spoken with survivor Stephen Woods:

Ballarat clergy abuse victim Stephen Woods has demanded the Pope intervenes.

Mr Woods said he was sick of Cardinal Pell hiding the truth and demanded the world's most senior Catholic put pressure on Cardinal Pell to be honest with the commission.

"We have had enough of the denial and dishonesty," Mr Woods said.

"On behalf of victims all over Australia and Broken Rites I demand the pope intervenes."

9:58am: We're back now with Gail Furness SC questioning Cardinal Pell about the movements of Gerald Ridsdale.

9:34am: Commissioner McClellan reminds Cardinal Pell that the community in Ridsdale's parishes, Bishop Mulkearn and Monsignor Fiscalini knew of the abuse. He suggests that Cardinal Pell would have had many interactions with the Bishop and with Monsignor Fiscalini, who was a fellow consultor to the Bishop. 

McClellan puts it to Cardinal Pell: "As far as Ridsdale was concerned in at least two parishes the secret was out wasn't it?"

McClellan then asks Cardinal Pell whether it was then true that he heard nothing about Ridsdale's abuses. 

Cardinal Pell says he had not. He says communications were less convenient then without mobile phones are social media. Commissioner McClellan is fairly unimpressed by this, pointing out that there were still telephones. He then adjourns for a brief break.

While we wait, read Melissa Cunningham’s story on a pair of survivors who made the gut-wrenching visit to the Basilica Di Santa Maria Maggiore. You can read that story here and watch the video below.

9:27am: Nick Miller reports from the hearing room in the Hotel Quirinale:

There is a mood of intense concentration here in the room in Rome. All eyes are on Pell as he navigates some rigorous cross examination. 

He seems a little more tense and combative today, compared to his conciliatory tone yesterday.

He sits on his little stage, eyes locked on the big flat screen TV showing the scene in Sydney. 

The audience is a little thinner than yesterday - about 30 journalists, 50 survivors, supporters and onlookers - gathered in this odd room with the hideous curtains and gold chandeliers. 

VIDEO | Pell: Ridsdale abuse 'wasn't of much interest to me'

9:16am: Commissioner McClellan asks why Bishop Mulkearns would want to hide the truth about Gerald Ridsdale even though it was common knowledge in at least two parishes. 

Cardinal Pell gives a long answer.

Commissioner McClellan says: "Regrettably, Cardinal, I do not understand your answer."

Cardinal Pell tries again, speculating that the Bishop may have hid the truth because he "would not want me to share in his culpability". 

Commissioner McClellan says: "If we come to the view that you did know, you would be culpable too." 

Cardinal Pell: "That is correct."

9:09am: Cardinal George Pell: "There was never any discussion in my presence of the dreadful story of Ridsdale."

He insists Bishop Mulkearns always knew of the offending and was deceitful by not passing on information.

9:07am: Cardinal Pell is asked what he thought at that meeting why Gerald Ridsdale had been moved so often. He said there must have been a "generalised explanation" about his "difficulties". 

He is asked whether somebody had told him Ridsdale was a paedophile. 

Cardinal Pell says they did not. It is then put to him that Bishop Mulkearn had therefore lied to him. He responds: "That is correct." 

He says: "There was never any discussion of paedophilia in my hearing."

9.05am: Melissa Cunningham has just filed this story from Rome.

In a touching piece, she details the pain of victims as they tour the Catholic institutions in Rome.

You can read the story here.

9:03am: Special Counsel Gail Furness is now taking Cardinal Pell through the minutes of a church meeting, which he attended, where several of the others also in attendance knew of the complaints about Gerald Ridsdale.

Furness asks Cardinal Pell if at that meeting Bishop Mulkearns, who knew of complaints against Gerald Ridsdale, had explained why Ridsdale had been moved from parish to parish. Cardinal Pell says Bishop Mulkearns did not.

Cardinal Pell says that "these matters were not discussed at the consultors' meetings".

He is asked by the chair of the hearing, who interjects, whether Bishop Mulkearns had therefore "deceived him". 

Cardinal Pell responds: "Unfortunately correct."

9:01am: The questioning now focusses on Gerald Ridsdale and whether Cardinal Pell was involved in discussions about his movements from paris to parish. He responds: "I don't recall any of the meetings at which Ridsdale was discussed". 

Gail Furness says it was "unusual" for Gerald Ridsdale to be moved so often. Cardinal Pell agrees.

8:53am: Another look now at the scene outside the Hotel Quirinale, where Cardinal Pell is giving evidence. This was during an interview with abuse victims (photo courtesy Getty Images). 

8:48am: Just clarifying, the loud gasps at Cardinal Pell's "not much interest" comment came from the hearing room in Sydney, not Rome, as some believed (it was impossible to tell the difference on the live feed). 

8:45am: Gail Furness is now asking Cardinal Pell about why the church was moving Gerald Ridsdale from parish to parish: he was given a temporary appointment in Bungaree after moving from Inglewood, where it's been alleged it was "common knowledge" he was interfering with boys.

8.40am: Update from reporter Melissa Cunningham regarding reaction to pell’s comments this morning about Ridsdale:

Clergy abuse survivor Andrew Collins said in one move, Cardinal Pell has shown his complete lack of empathy for victims.

Cardinal Pell previously told the sex abuse inquiry the suffering of victims was "very real" but he had not reason to turn his mind to the extent of evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated.

"Perhaps if he had of shown interest in what was happening within the his own diocese things may have been different," Mr Collins said.


8:34am: Gail Furness SC asks Cardinal Pell what he meant by "it wasn't of much interest to me". He responds: "The suffering, of course, was real and I very much regret that but I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated."

8:30am: There have been howls of disbelief in the hearing room at Cardinal Pell's comment about Gerald Ridsdale interfering with children in Inglewood: "It was a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me."

8:22am: Cardinal Pell has been presented with a 1976 police report about an assault by Ridsdale in Inglewood, which would have been presented to Bishop Mulkearns.

8.18am: Ballarat Town Hall is a bit quieter today.

There are only about a dozen onlookers watching the live stream, compared to about 60 yesterday.

8:16am: Cardinal Pell says "these were different times" and that when a priest was found to have committed abuse, if it was a "first offence" it was seen as appropriate to send them away for counselling "with the possibility of return."

8:13am: Special Counsel Gail Furness asks Cardinal Pell if he knew anything about how the notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale put in for a transfer out of the parish at Apollo Bay. Pell responds: "No."

8:13am: The sparring between Cardinal Pell and Special Counsel Gail Furness (pictured this morning at the hearing room in Sydney) has begun. He gives flat, short answers: "No", "That is correct." She responds: "Mmmm." 

8.04am: Day two of the hearing has just started.

8.02am: We are still waiting for the hearing to start. While you wait, read foreign correspondent Nick Miller’s take on yesterday’s affairs and Pell being out of his comfort zone here.

Gail Furness.

Gail Furness.

8:01am: On her way into the second day of the hearing, Christine Foster tells Nick Miller she is filled with confidence by the way the Commission is seeking truth and justice. She is the mother of two girls who were abused by paedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell.

But she says there is a "big hole" in the evidence to the Commission that only Cardinal Pell can fill - what happened in those diocesan meetings where sexual abuse by priests may have been discussed. She wants to hear him say that he knew, she says, not just that he doesn't remember.

7.55am: Watch the video of when Cardinal Pell said his memory was “fallible” yesterday.

7.50am: The Pope may accept Cardinal George Pell's enforced resignation in June, if evidence to Australia's Royal Commission links him to the relocation of priests suspected of paedophilia, "Vaticanista" journalists believe. Read more here.

7.45am: Reporter Melissa Cunningham also accompanied two survivors on a trip to the Basilica Di Santa Maria Maggiore. 

For childhood sexual abuse victim Paul Levey, it was the first time he has stepped foot in a Catholic church for decades, leaving him trembling.

Cardinal Pell arriving for today's hearing.

Cardinal Pell arriving for today's hearing.

Read their emotional story here.

7.40am: While we are waiting, let’s recap what happened yesterday.

Cardinal George Pell openly admitted the church had made "enormous" mistakes in its handling of child sex crimes and had let victims down but was working to repair it.

However, victims were still left frustrated in a lot of information he appeared to withhold, citing memory loss as the biggest factor.

The Courier’s Melissa Cunningham is in Rome and filed this report overnight.

7.30am: Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the second day of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

We will be bringing you live updates of the hearing as it unfolds.

Ballarat's sexual abuse survivors in Rome. Picture: Melissa Cunningham.

Ballarat's sexual abuse survivors in Rome. Picture: Melissa Cunningham.