A crowdfunding campaign allowed 15 Australian survivors of sexual abuse to confront Australia’s oldest Catholic priest in Rome, writes Georgia McCafferty in an article published yesterday on Quartz.
But things didn’t seem to go as planned, as the cardinal refused to take any responsibility for the hundreds of cases of sexual abuse which occurred in Australia when he was in charge, during the 1970s, ’80s, and, ’90s.
The cardinal, George Pell, provided testimony on the 29 of February via a video link from his hotel room to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The testimony is expected to last three to four days in total.
When asked if he was aware of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale abusing children at Inglewood, Pell answered “I couldn’t say that I ever knew that everyone knew. I knew a number of people did. I didn’t know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn’t. It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me”, to the amazement and shock of everybody in the audience.
When further pushed to answer, he continued with “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”, and “Well, an individual can only do what it is possible to do, and everybody has a responsibility to try to preserve the moral health of the community in ways that are real and practical”.
The crowdfunding campaign that made possible for the survivors to be present at Pell’s testimony raised more than US$143,000 and it covered their flights, accommodation, and food. This campaign started when Pell was reportedly too unwell to fly to Australia.
Pell’s testimony left survivors frustrated and provided them little consolation. One of the survivors, David Ridsdale, Gerald Ridsdale’s nephew, said: “We are speaking of moral leaders of towns and cities. And for them to have no interest in such behavior seems remarkable.”