Royal commission revelations that Cardinal George Pell knew about child sexual abuse by fellow priests in his diocese once again points to the "catastrophic" structural and cultural failures inside the Catholic Church at the time.
The Royal Commission report previously noted the "structure of the (Ballarat) diocese was flawed and lacked any accountability.
"There was a catastrophic institutional failure which resulted in many children being sexually abused," it stated.
"We heard about the devastating, often lifelong, consequences in the lives of those children.
"The welfare of children was not the primary concern of Bishop Mulkearns and other senior members of the Diocese when responding to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse against their priests."
Cardinal Pell was part of this structure - an unredacted part of the report shows a letter he wrote to Bishop Mulkearns in 1984, describing his role as Episcopal Vicar for Education.
"The Vicar is the Bishop's representative in all areas of education. He is a significant source of advice to the Bishop on education and supports and oversees those working in Catholic education," he wrote.
"The essential link between Bishop, priests, parents, teachers and students is also emphasised."
Cardinal Pell held this role in the Ballarat diocese from 1973 to 1984, but said his involvement at St Alipius Primary School, where horrific abuse occurred, was "almost nothing".
The unredacted document also shows Cardinal Pell's actions at the Archdiocese of Melbourne, when Father Peter Searson committed a litany of abusive acts, including carrying a gun at a school, holding a knife to a girl, and sexually abusing students.
Several times, the Melbourne Archdiocese administration, or Curia, of which Cardinal Pell was part, is condemned for failing to act on Searson.
Searson's decades-long abuse is detailed in Case Study 35, focusing on the Melbourne Archdiocese.
Cardinal Pell was elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, after becoming an auxiliary bishop in 1987 when he left the Ballarat diocese.
In 1989, a delegation of staff from Searson's Doveton school met with Cardinal Pell to tell him about their concerns.
"On Cardinal Pell's own evidence, one of the things he was told in preparation for the delegation was that allegations of sexual misconduct had been raised against Father Searson, albeit in a 'non-specific' way," the report states.
"If the information provided to Bishop Pell was not sufficiently specific, he ought to have requested a fuller explanation."
"We are satisfied that, on the basis of the matters known to Bishop Pell on his own evidence (being the matters on the list of incidents and grievances and the 'non-specific' allegation of sexual misconduct), he ought reasonably to have concluded that action needed to be taken in relation to Father Searson."
Searson remained in his position until 1997.
"We also found that, by 1993, Monsignor Connors, Monsignor Deakin, Bishop Joseph Peter O'Connell and Bishop George Pell (of the Melbourne Archdiocese) had each personally received other complaints against Father Searson and they each knew enough to conclude that Father Searson ought to be removed from parish ministry. They should have advised the archbishop to remove Father Searson," the reports state.
"Given the number of individual Catholic Church personnel with knowledge of complaints against Father Searson, it was extraordinary that there was such a long period of inaction.
"On the basis of what was known to Bishop Pell in 1989, it ought to have been obvious to him at the time. He should have advised the Archbishop to remove Father Searson and he did not do so.
"Cardinal Pell agreed that the letter from (one witness) alone was sufficient grounds for Father Searson to be removed. Again, we agree."
A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell said in a statement the 1989 staff delegation "did not mention sexual assaults".
"Archbishop Pell placed Father Searson on administrative leave in March 1997 and removed him from the parish on May 15, 1997."
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.
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