Cardinal George Pell knew a Victorian priest was moved because he had sexually abused children and should have pushed for an unstable and disturbed priest's removal, a royal commission found.
The child abuse royal commission rejected Cardinal Pell's evidence that he was deceived and lied to by Catholic Church officials about Australia's worst pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, and Melbourne parish priest Peter Searson.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse findings relate to Cardinal Pell's knowledge of abuse allegations in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was a priest and bishop's adviser in Ballarat and an auxiliary bishop and adviser to the archbishop in Melbourne.
Cardinal Pell was one of a number of senior church officials criticised over their handling of abuse complaints or allegations against numerous priests and Christian Brothers in the Melbourne archdiocese and Diocese of Ballarat.
The catastrophic failures were led by the 1974-1996 Melbourne archbishop Frank Little and the 1971-1997 Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who the inquiry found prioritised protecting the church's reputation over the welfare of children.
Ridsdale was repeatedly moved between parishes by Bishop Mulkearns, who knew about his offending.
The commission rejected Cardinal Pell's claim that Bishop Mulkearns lied to or deceived his advisers in 1982 when Ridsdale was removed from the parish of Mortlake, where the priest later admitted his behaviour was "out of control".
Cardinal Pell gave evidence the bishop did not give the true reason for Ridsdale's removal and lied by not doing so.
But the commissioners did not accept that Bishop Mulkearns lied to his consultors and were satisfied he did not deceive his consultors.
The commission found Bishop Mulkearns told the advisers it was necessary to move Ridsdale from the diocese and from parish work because of complaints he had sexually abused children.
"Cardinal Pell's evidence that 'paedophilia was not mentioned' and that the 'true' reason was not given is not accepted," the commission's said.
"It is implausible ... that Bishop Mulkearns did not inform those at the meeting of at least complaints of sexual abuse of children having been made."
Knowing about Ridsdale
In reference to notorious paedophile priest Gerard Ridsdale, the commission found Pell was aware that Ridsdale was taking boys on trips in which they could be sexually assaulted.
Pell lived with Ridsdale for almost a year in 1973, but had always maintained he had no idea he was a paedophile.
However, the commission disagreed.
"We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps," the report reads.
"The most likely reason for this, as Cardinal Pell acknowledged, was the possibility that if priests were one-on-one with a child then they could sexually abuse a child or at least provoke gossip about such a prospect.
"By this time, child sexual abuse was on his radar, in relation to not only Monsignor Day (another paedophile priest) but also Ridsdale."
We are also satisfied that by 1973 Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy but that he also had considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it.Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
What the College of Consultors knew in 1982
Ridsdale's removal from Mortlake parish was discussed at the College of Consultors meeting on 14 September, 1982. Bishop Mulkearns presided at the meeting, in which Pell was present.
There, it was discussed that Ridsdale be moved. Pell originally said he did not remember the meeting, until the meeting minutes proved he was present.
"I knew nothing about his paedophilia," he said when questioned at the royal commission.
At the royal commission, Pell insisted paedophilia was never mentioned and that Ridsdale had only been moved on because of his homosexuality.
He also insisted Bishop Mulkearns had lied throughout the meeting by not saying Ridsdale was being moved because of paedophilia. The report states this was not plausible.
"Cardinal Pell accepted that three of the seven consultors knew of complaints about Ridsdale at the time of the meeting, and two had significant knowledge," the report reads.
"Cardinal Pell agreed that it was necessary to move Ridsdale from Mortlake because of the knowledge among parts of the community, as well as three of the consultors, about child sexual abuse by Ridsdale in Mortlake."
Cardinal Pell’s evidence that ‘paedophilia was not mentioned’ and that the ‘true’ reason was not given is not accepted.
Willing to provide a character reference for Ridsdale in 1993
Bishop Pell (as he then was) was also asked to provide a character reference for Ridsdale before his first court case.
Ridsdale's solicitor, Mr Darvall, suggested to him that if there was a Bishop available, he should be called.
In April 1993, documents record that Bishop Pell was willing to provide a reference for Father Ridsdale.
Those documents record that Bishop Pell was willing to provide that reference orally in court.
A note from Mr Darvall to Father Ridsdale in early May 1993 states, 'I have spoken with Bishop Pell and after very lengthy discussions he has agreed to attend and give evidence on your behalf. This is a breakthrough'.
Mr Darvall also noted that Fathers Davey, Madden and McInerney were also coming to give character evidence for him.
Cardinal Pell's evidence to us was that he had not been in contact with Father Ridsdale for years, but that 'I had some status as an Auxiliary Bishop and I was asked to appear, with the ambition that this would lessen the term of punishment perhaps - lessen his time in gaol'.
Cardinal Pell did not ultimately provide a reference for Father Ridsdale. However, he walked with Father Ridsdale to the court on the day of his sentencing.
Knowing about Dowlan
The commission also found that in the early 1970s, Cardinal Pell was told by one or two students, and one or two priests, about Christian Brother Edward Dowlan's sexual abuse at St Patrick's College.
Dowlan was part of a notorious paedophile ring involving the clergy in Ballarat.
"We accept that Cardinal Pell concluded at the time that Dowlan must, at the very least, have been unwise and imprudent," it read.
"Cardinal Pell told the chaplain at St Patrick's College, Father Brendan Davey, about the rumours he had heard about Dowlan.
"We accept that Father Davey told him there were problems and that the Christian Brothers were looking into it. It is not known what Father Davey did with the information that Cardinal Pell provided to him.
Cardinal Pell did not tell Brother Nangle or Bishop Mulkearns about what he had heard.Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
When he was informed at Eureka Pool
The commission found Pell was told about sexual abuse occurring as early as 1974, but he dismissed it instantly.
At the Eureka Pool, student Timothy Green told Pell that Brother Dowlan was abusing many boys at St Patrick's College.
The commission originally heard Pell's response, when told by Mr Green was: "Don't be ridiculous" and he walked out of the changerooms.
Pell had always claimed he did not remember this occurring.
However, the report found Pell had in fact been told about the offending.
"We accept Mr Green's account. It is likely, in light of Cardinal Pell's memory of hearing about Dowlan's sexual infractions with minors, that at the time he was aware of Mr Green's claims," it reads.
"We are satisfied that in late 1974, in the Eureka Swimming Pool changing room at Ballarat, Mr Green said to Father Pell, 'We've got to do something about what's going on at St Pat's', and, when Father Pell asked what he meant, Mr Green responded, 'Brother Dowlan is touching little boys'. Father Pell said words to the effect of 'Don't be ridiculous' and walked away."
Pell was not deceived by officials
The commission also rejected Cardinal Pell's evidence he was deceived by Melbourne Catholic education officials because they did not tell him what they knew about Searson's behaviour.
"We do not accept that Bishop Pell was deceived, intentionally or otherwise," the commissioners found.
In its reports originally released in December 2017, the commission found Archbishop Little repeatedly did nothing about Searson - an "unstable and disturbed individual" - and others who abused children, as he sought to protect the church from scandal.
A 1989 delegation of Doveton teachers told then-Bishop Pell about Searson harassing children, staff and parents, showing children a body in coffin and animal cruelty, among other complaints.
The commission found Cardinal Pell should have urged the archbishop to take action against Searson to protect the children of the parish and the Catholic community in his region.
"On the basis of what was known to Bishop Pell in 1989, it ought to have been obvious to him at the time," the commission said.
"He should have advised the archbishop to remove Father Searson and he did not do so."
The unredacted commission findings were released on Thursday after the High Court last month overturned Cardinal Pell's child abuse convictions.
Pell, the former Vatican treasurer and Melbourne and Sydney archbishop, was released from a Victorian prison on April 7 after the High Court overturned his five abuse convictions.
The royal commission's separate reports into the Catholic Church's response to abuse complaints and allegations in the Melbourne archdiocese and Victoria's Ballarat diocese were released in December 2017.
Both had sections blacked out to avoid prejudicing any current or future prosecutions, including the abuse case against Cardinal Pell.
In 2016, Cardinal Pell told the royal commission he was deceived about pedophile priests in "a world of crimes and cover-ups".
Cardinal Pell was a Ballarat priest from 1973 until 1984, overseeing the diocese's schools and at times acting as an adviser to the bishop.
He also served as one of the Melbourne archbishop's advisers while an auxiliary bishop between 1987 and 1996.
- with AAP
FROM 2015 ROYAL COMMISSION HEARING | Full wrap of the eight-day hearing in Ballarat/Melbourne
FROM 2016 IN ROME
FROM PELL'S LATEST COURT CASE | A 'devastating' ruling: Ballarat survivors react to George Pell's acquittal
Affected by this story? There is help available. You can phone the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, in Sebastopol, on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292. Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.
You can read the report in full here.