He was a monster’: how priest child abuse tore apart Pennsylvania towns

A grand jury report issued last week details abuse by dozens of Catholic leaders in the small communities of Altoona-Johnstown from the 1950s to the 1990s

The cathedral church dome under a full moon in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
The cathedral church dome under a full moon in Altoona, Pennsylvania.


One of Brian Gergely’s fellow altar boys had a code he would use to signal danger in the room where they and the priest prepared for mass.

“He would say ‘red buttons’, and that was the alert that the priest was coming up behind you, and we would try to get away from him, running around the desk in the middle of the room where he kept the chalices, the host and the wine,” said Gergely, 46.

Gergely was 10 at the time.

The priest was Monsignor Francis McCaa, a commanding figure in the small Pennsylvania town of Ebensburg in his black cassock with the red buttons, and one of dozens of Catholic leaders named in a devastating report issued last week by a state grand jury detailing appalling child sex abuse in his diocese and a systematic cover-up by the church.

“I was standing in the sacristy and he pinned me to the desk. I was just a little guy,” Gergely said. McCaa assaulted him there and also while the boy gave confession, at the Holy Name church where his family worshiped.

“My parents were patrons,” Gergely said. “They were going door to door raising money for the church. The community put Monsignor McCaa on a pedestal.”

Other priests named in the report worked in the past at the school, where Gergely recalls being subjected to tough corporal punishment.

With a population of just 3,300, Ebensburg has been jolted by the horrifying details of past abuse in its midst. The grand jury report issued by Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane describes sex crimes committed on children from the 1950s through the 1990s all across the sprawling Altoona-Johnstown diocese that lies between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, involving more than 50 church leaders and hundreds of victims. And it reveals previously concealed church documents showing lists of secret payouts made to victims in the diocese.

The pattern of offenses, cover-ups and shuffling accused priests from parish to parish echoes the huge scandals already exposed in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in recent times.

The report also establishes that church authorities in Altoona-Johnstown knew decades ago what was going on, as did some civic officials and senior figures in the criminal justice system. Many details came out in public in one of the few high-profile civil lawsuits in the early 90s, filed against Father Francis Luddy, a priest who served in both Altoona and Johnstown.

But instead of leaping into action, authorities in Pennsylvania did little, the report asserts, and there was relatively little public outcry.

Now the extent of abuse in the diocese is being unveiled, though notably after the statute of limitations has expired for both criminal and civil action, and with many – but not all – of the perpetrators and their enablers already dead.

The Altoona-Johnstown diocese administration building in Altoona
The Altoona-Johnstown diocese administration building in Altoona.

Lying midway between Altoona and Johnstown in the Allegheny mountains, Ebensburg is typical of the many small communities across the diocese, steeped in the Catholic tradition and striving to prosper in the face of declining traditional industries, especially coal mining.

McCaa’s reported depravity on his young flock stands out.

“Father Francis McCaa was a monster,” the grand jury stated.

The investigation found 15 of his alleged victims, abused between 1961 and 1985.

“In some cases children tried to report their abuse to their parents … but were not believed … the grand jury aches at hearing the hopelessness these victims felt when being offended on by a pastor they were taught to respect and honor,” the report says. Some parents punished their children for accusing the “friendly” monsignor, the report says, though at one point the bishop at the time, James Hogan, was confronted by a group of “outraged parents” and promised action.

Hogan met with district attorney Gerald Long and assistant DA Patrick Kiniry, both now serving as judges in the area, the report says, though no charges were brought.

McCaa was removed from the diocese and replaced with a priest who is also named in the report as a pedophile.

McCaa retired in 1993 and died in 2007. Hogan died in 2005.

Gergely was at the courthouse in Ebensburg on Friday to witness three state lawmakers holding a small public event in the marbled vestibule to announce a call for more action.

The three pledged to fight for legislation – which has been stuck for many years in committee in the state capital of Harrisburg– on whether to abolish the statute of limitations in civil cases involving child abuse. They also plan to introduce a bill to create a special, two-year window allowing past victims to sue the church.

“Just in this borough, it’s like a cancer,” said the state senator David Burns. “Everyone here knows a victim, even though they may not know they know it. The attorney general did not say the investigation is closed and there may be more to come. They estimate that in a single little town like this, McCaa affected a generation of kids.”

And people may not have realized the extent to which tears in the fabric of the community were ripped by McCaa and his ilk, Burns said.

“We have a large drug problem in our area, we deal with high driving-under-the-influence (DUI) arrests, and we just think that’s because the community is poor and unemployed, but it could be that a lot of these kids have had a hard time integrating into society because of the impact of this abuse. It strains family and sexual relationships, and it often takes years, especially for a man, to report something,” said Burns.

He said he had no reason to believe that abuse was not continuing after the period covered in the report and he hoped there would be further action.

Nationally, John Salveson, founder of the campaign group the Foundation to Abolish Child Abuse, and other activist groups, such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), are calling on Barack Obama to launch a federal investigation.

State assemblyman Mark Rozzi’s district is outside the Altoona-Johnstown diocese. But he is calling for a grand jury investigations in every diocese in Pennsylvania.

Rozzi said that legislators at the state assembly in Harrisburg were “running away and hiding in their offices, refusing to speak to me” when he tried to talk about taking government action against the abuse.

Rozzi, now 44, said when he was 13, he fell prey to his priest, Edward Graff.

When Graff invited a school friend of Rozzi’s to the rectory, too, the boy realized he was not the only one. Rozzi recalls Graff telling the friend to wait, while he took Rizzo into the shower and raped him.

“I remember staring at this bit of the shower wall and thinking: ‘I can stand here and take this or I can run,’” he said.

Rozzi shoved the man off him and raced out of the shower, grabbing some clothes and yelling to his friend to flee.

“I was running down the hall of the rectory, basically naked. Father was screaming at us. I said to my friend: ‘No one can know about this,’” he said. They ran away, terrified.

Bishop James Hogan, right, and Pope John Paul II in Rome.
Bishop James Hogan, right, and Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Rozzi became a star athlete at college, but suffered psychologically. He had appalling nightmares about being chased and raped by the priest, dreams which he tried to quell with marijuana. He credits his wife, whom he met at college, for helping to save his sanity.

After unsuccessfully lobbying the state assembly, while in his thirties, to take action on child abuse, Rozzi ran for office himself. Three of his childhood friends who also suffered sexual abuse by priests have killed themselves, the most recent on Good Friday last year.

Brian Gergely started drinking at 10 after he says he was groped by McCaa. Disappointing grades at school and two DUI convictions thwarted his ambition to become a lawyer. He is now a behavioral therapist for kids with special needs, has trouble keeping a girlfriend and is single, he said. In 2006, he tried to hang himself.

The bishop who succeeded James Hogan, Joseph Adamec, who has since retired, testified to the grand jury. He is excoriated in the report for failing to take action against numerous abusive priests, while ignoring victims. The report says church leaders sought to discredit victims and their families.

Adamec was not at home on Friday evening at the address publicly listed for him in Hollidaysburg, near Altoona, and could not be reached for comment.

But at his house next to the church where he is pastor in Altoona, Monsignor Michael Servinsky, 69, answered the door and spoke while standing in his hallway beneath portraits of the pope and the current bishop of the diocese.

Servinsky was cited in the grand jury report as having failed to notify law enforcement in 2001 and 2002 about two priests who admitted past abuse to him, one of boys the other of girls.

Bishop Joseph Adamec
Bishop Joseph Adamec

Servinsky denied to the Guardian that he had done anything wrong.

“I think the grand jury did quite a hatchet job on Bishop Joseph – they did him in. He was very concerned about making sure the victims got covered [financially]. And they talk about Bishop Hogan manipulating the legal system. No. I know situations where police and judges would collar him and say: ‘Get that guy out of here and we will not prosecute.’ We are talking about a different age, going back 40 or 50 years,” he said.

Servinsky added, however, that there was “no excuse” for child abuse.

He said some priests were dismissed and others were allowed to retire “because if we dismissed them, they would not have any income, and that would not be just”.

Asked whether the priests should be in prison, Servinsky argued that pedophilia has always been a problem going back millennia and in 2016 “we are still dealing with the same problem”, so what good would prison do?

“We have capital punishment and there are still murders,” he said, adding: “Most of the victims who came to us were not interested in taking it to law enforcement. They didn’t want to testify.”

Two miles up the street, the basilica-style Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament overlooks downtown Altoona.

Around 100 parishioners attended a Lent service there on Friday evening. Numerous priests named in the grand jury’s report served at the cathedral during their careers, and the report found that children were raped on the premises.

Emerging with her adolescent son, Tina, a physical education assistant born and raised in Altoona, who preferred not to give her last name, said she thought the turnout at the service had been “three times as high as normal” as people showed their support for the embattled diocese.

Inside, Father Dennis Kurdziel had just finished presiding.

He said he was “stunned and sickened” by the revelations in the grand jury report and regretted that it forced all those “wearing the collar” to feel the eye of suspicion, whether accurate or not.

“It takes your breath away. I felt this week like I was hit in the face with a two-by-four,” he said.

Current Altoona-Johnstown bishop Mark Bartchak apologized on Thursday. But state lawmakers Burns, Rozzi and John Wozniak said the test of his sincerity would be what he and other leaders do now.

Kurdziel said: “We should not hide behind the statute of limitations. If it could somehow help and protect people, then we should do it. I have a responsibility as a priest. I don’t like to think of it as power.”

Asked what a young parishioner should do if a man of the church attempts to touch them inappropriately, he said: “Smack them in the face as hard as you can and run to a cop.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pell case: Pontifical Commission calls for prompt response from those in positions of authority

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors headed by Sean O’Malley, has issued a statement in light of the fracas between Peter Saunders and Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, speaks at a news conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on Feb. 16, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors headed by US cardinal Sean O’Malley, has intervened with a statement in light of the recent clash between Peter Saunders, a member of the Commission who was abused by a paedophile priest when he was a child and Australian cardinal George Pell, Secretary of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

Speaking on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes Australia programme, Saunders accused Pell of showing indifference to the victims of a paedophile priest in Australia when he was a young priest, even going as far as to define Pell’s attitude “sociopathic” and expressing the hope that the Pope would remove him from his Vatican role. The prelate – who will be giving evidence at a hearing before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Child Sex Abuse after already speaking in a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria – was defensive in his response: he stressed that he never covered up any complaints made against paedophile priests and said he would resort to legal action. The Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi also issued a comment, saying that the statement made in recent days by Cardinal Pell in response to the accusations made by the Australian Commission, was “worthy of respect and attention”. The Vatican spokesman added that the statements made by Saunders “were clearly entirely personal and were not made on behalf of the Commission”. Now, the Commission Saunders is a member of has also expressed itself.

“The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as mandated by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has no jurisdiction to comment on individual cases or inquiries,” the statement issued yesterday evening reads. “Regarding Australia’s Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Child Sex Abuse, all appropriate questions are being dealt with by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council in Australia, which is coordinating the local Church’s response to the Royal Commission’s findings,” the statement says. “The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors remains dedicated to its mission as outlined in the recently approved provisional Statutes, which is to help the Church worldwide protect minors and make certain that the interests of abuse survivors and victims’ are paramount. To this ends the Commission considers it essential that those in positions of authority in the Church respond promptly, transparently and with the clear intent of enabling justice to be achieved.”

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal George Pell has to resign, or Pope Francis must act

By Joanne McCarthy


Cardinal George Pell has to resign. Before the week is out, and on the back of his evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the cardinal must go, and Pope Francis must be involved.

If not, the Catholic Church in Australia is going to bleed numbers indefinitely. The Pope’s statements about child sexual abuse will be seen as nothing but more words from a church whose standing has been trashed on the issue, and shockingly so over the past three days.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Quirinale hotel
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Quirinale hotel

Pell has no credibility as a moral leader. Pope Francis’ reputation as the people’s Pope – champion of the poor and powerless – is damaged by association if he fails to act decisively, and immediately.

Pell was appalling in the witness box. Watching him give evidence felt almost ghoulish at times, like standing across the road from a car crash. How can any thinking, feeling, responsive – Christian for heaven’s sake – human being respond the way Pell did, when questioned about Doveton priest Peter Searson’s horrifying behaviour with children?

Asked about a report of Searson stabbing a bird to death with a screwdriver in front of children, Pell conceded it came to his attention but “I don’t know whether the bird was already dead but at some stage I certainly was informed of this bizarre happening”.

Counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness, picked up on the bleeding obvious – did it matter if the bird was dead? Wasn’t the point that a priest, supposedly one of God’s representatives on earth, had stabbed a bird? In front of children? If you were in a position of authority in the diocese at that time, wouldn’t you have made it your business to find out if the priest should have been responsible for anyone, let alone children?

Apparently not. As Pell said about another shocking allegation involving Searson – that he held a knife to a young girl and said “If you move this will go through you” – there was nothing to be done once the girl’s parents said they were unwilling to have police investigate, so the church did nothing.

How can anyone in the Catholic Church, from Pope Francis down, think it reasonable that Pell should finish his third day of evidence with the following exchange and, more importantly, remain in a position of moral leadership?

Furness asked Pell if there was anything he did as auxiliary bishop, dealing with child sexual abuse allegations, that he considered wanting or deficient in any way.

Apart from regret for being incurious about paedophile clerics who resigned, supposedly for ill health, Pell replied “I don’t believe there is.”

Pope Francis must force Pell to resign or retire early. The Pope must also meet with the Ballarat survivors in Rome on Friday before they return to Australia, and Victorian couple Chrissie and Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were raped by a priest.

A meeting with Pell, the man who thinks he did little wrong apart from being deceived by others within the church, would not only be a waste of time for survivors but add a layer of hypocrisy to what Royal Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan has quite rightly called a tragedy.

Pope Francis is the one person who can do for survivors of child sexual abuse what no one else can do – change canon law so that all Catholic clergy around the world must report allegations of child sexual abuse to police and authorities, which is something he has so far refused to do.

As Pell told the commission, they all answer to the Pope.

Complete Article HERE!

Police Say Seymour Priest Embezzled From Church

Rev. Honore Kombo

A 50-year-old local Catholic priest is facing charges after police say he embezzled more than $20,000 from St. Augustine Church.

Police charged Honore Kombo, the former pastor of St. Augustine Church on Washington Avenue, with first-degree larceny after they say they were alerted to funds missing from the parish in April of 2015.

The investigation revealed that Kombo deposited an annuity left to the church by a deceased parishioner into a church account but then wrote a check to himself for a “large sum of money” and deposited it into a personal account in his name.

Police said that Kombo also opened a line of credit in October of 2013 under the church’s name and would deposit funds from the line of credit into his personal account.

A charge of first-degree larceny is a Class B felony for a dollar amount more than $20,000, police said. Kombo was released after posting a $10,000 bond and will appear in Derby Superior Court on the charges March 14.

Complete Article HERE!

‘I am not sure there was a civic obligation to report such a crime’: Cardinal George Pell says priests who knew of child sex abuse had no responsibility to tell police as he gives evidence to royal commission

  • Cardinal George Pell has given evidence at child abuse royal commission
  • He said it was unacceptable Gerald Francis Ridsdale was moved parishes
  • The Cardinal described the prolific pedophile’s offending as a ‘sad story’
  • Cardinal Pell maintained that he wasn’t aware of child abuse in Ballarat
  • He denied knowing Risdale had a 14-year-old living with him in 1982

By Aap and Belinda Grant Geary and Emily Crane

Cardinal George Pell has questioned whether a priest with knowledge of sex crimes against children has a civic obligation to report it after he described the prolific sexual abuse of children at a Victorian parish ‘a sad story’ that ‘wasn’t of much interest’ to him.

Cardinal Pell, who was a Ballarat priest at the height of pedophile Gerald Risdale’s offending, has presented evidence to the royal commission into child sex abuse from Rome, stating he was not aware of the notorious pedophile’s behaviour in the 1970s and 1980s.

When questioned about his obligation to speak out against crimes like those perpetrated against a number of children in the Ballarat diocese Cardinal Pell said members of the church who were aware would have been morally obliged to report it but questioned if that decision was expected by law.

‘I’m not sure that he would morally escape such an obligation, but I am not sure at that stage there was even a civic obligation to report such a crime,’ he told the commission on Tuesday via videolink.

Cardinal George Pell

Gerald Francis Ridsdale

Earlier that day Cardinal Pell described the abuse taking place in the Victorian parish of Inglewood in 1975 as a ‘sad story’ that was not of much interest to him at the time.

‘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 evil that Ridsdale had perpetrated,’ Dr Pell said.

His comment drew gasps from some observers in the room, many of whom were victims of child abuse who had travelled to Rome to hear his testimony.

Cardinal Pell has denied having any knowledge of the widespread abuse, noting on Tuesday that he was not aware that Risdale had a teenage boy living with him in 1982, despite a number church officials being aware of the grossly inappropriate ‘co-habitation’

Paul Levey previously told royal commission that he was abused by Risdale ‘just about every day’ after he was sent to live at the presbytery at Mortlake for six months around Easter 1982.

Mr Levey slept in the same room as the pedophile and claimed it became common knowledge he was living there.

During his second day before the commission, Cardinal George Pell said he did not know about Mr Levey’s living arrangements even though by then he was privy to the ‘scandalous’ rumours about Ridsdale from his time in Ballarat during the 70s.

He said that at the time he was travelling at lot as he was working as director of Melbourne’s Aquinas College and was also principal of the entire institute of Catholic education which meant he had thousands of children to oversee.

‘I certainly was not plugged into the life of the diocese like someone who would be working full time in parishes,’ he said.

Counsel advising the commission Gail Furness, SC, pointed out to him that clergy with whom he was acquainted knew of the arrangement.

Mr Levey’s mother and a nun had also raised the issue with Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns.

The cardinal insisted he did not know until much later, perhaps in the 90s, but had he known he would have thought it was ‘most unusual, even if there was a resident housekeeper’ with ‘common sense’.

He said he would have been concerned for the safety of the boy as it was ‘imprudent’ for any priest to do so.

Cardinal Pell told the commission that during his time as consulter to Bishop Mulkearns he had never been advised of the situation by Mulkearns or a string of other priests who were aware of the situation.

He questioned if he or any other advisors had ‘the power’ to withdraw the boy – stating that members of the church are often surrounded by ‘real constraints’ and that ‘nobody can do the impossible’.

Cardinal Pell went on to say that at the time people were reticent to talk about such things.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan asked him if being reticent implied people had knowledge but did not talk about it but Cardinal Pell said he was not suggesting that. 

Cardinal Pell did admit that the Catholic Church leadership failed to protect children in the Ballarat Diocese but accepted no responsibility for moving Risdale to Mortlake as he was ignorant of the offending by Risdale despite a number of complaints being made.

‘In the diocese of Ballarat certainly there was a gigantic failure of leadership,’ Cardinal Pell told the child abuse royal commission from Rome.

The commission heard that between 1977 and 1984 Pell had been working as an advisor to the Bishop Mulkearns who headed the Ballarat diocese in the 1970s and 1980s when Ridsdale was repeatedly assaulting children. Cardinal Pell told the commission Bishop Mulkearns was ‘reprehensible’ in ignoring complaints about the notorious pedophile priest.

‘His repeated refusal to act is, I think, absolutely extraordinary,’ Dr Pell told the commission via video link from Rome.

Ms Furness SC, counsel assisting the commission, described how one woman complained to Bishop Mulkearns about Ridsdale and ‘he just sat there and stared at us’.

‘That’s extraordinary and reprehensible,’ Cardinal Pell said.

He said Bishop Mulkearns told his advisers that Risdale had to be removed from the Mortlake parish in a meeting in September 1982 but said pedophilia was never mentioned at the meeting.

There was no reference to sexual misconduct with minors,’ he said.

Cardinal Pell said he knew nothing about Ridsdale’s pedophilia, stating that there were other priests who moved frequently and that it had not appeared suspicious given those circumstances.

Ms Furness SC said three of the seven advisers at the September 1982 meeting knew it was necessary to move Ridsdale because of sexual complaints against him and it was implausible that the others were not told why.

Cardinal Pell responded: ‘It would only be implausible if there was evidence that they had been told in some way or other.’

After reviewing minutes of the meeting, Ms Furness suggested that if three other consulters were aware it was ‘implausible’ that Cardinal Pell did not understand why it was necessary to move Risdale.

Cardinal Pell said that was complete nonsense.


Cardinal George Pell says he was unaware of the offending of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale in the 1970s but abuse survivors find that hard to believe

Child sex abuse survivors say it’s unbelievable a man of Cardinal George Pell’s intelligence was unaware of a pedophile priest’s offending when two Victorian communities and local clergy knew about it.

The cardinal told the child abuse royal commission on Monday night that while he was on a Ballarat diocese committee that advised on the transfers of priests he was never told of the offending of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale in the 1970s.

By videolink from Hotel Quirinale in Rome he told the commission sitting in Sydney that then Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns and his advisor Monsignor Fiscalini had deceived him by not telling him Ridsdale was moved between parishes because of his offending.

Ridsdale was able to continue his offending as he was shifted from one parish to another as ‘talk’ began among parishioners about his interfering with children.

His nephew David Ridsdale, who was sexually abused by his uncle, is among a group of survivors hearing the cardinal’s evidence in Rome and told reporters it appeared the Catholic Church was behaving ‘with lies and deceit’ within its own structure.

Survivors and family members of Risdale's victims - Dominic Ridsdale, Phil Nagle, Paul Auchettl, David Ridsdale, Tony Waroley, Stephen Woods and Peter Blenkiron - stand in front of the Quirinale hotel in Rome
Survivors and family members of Risdale’s victims – Dominic Ridsdale, Phil Nagle, Paul Auchettl, David Ridsdale, Tony Waroley, Stephen Woods and Peter Blenkiron – stand in front of the Quirinale hotel in Rome

He said he assumed Victorian Police would be taking up the matter in relation to church officials moving pedophile priests to parishes where they could continue their offending.

Abuse survivor Phil Nagle said the pedophile Ridsdale’s offending with children was well known in two Victorian communities including among clergy, parents and police.

‘Cardinal Pell is a very astute, a very bright man so how can he say he didn’t know?

‘He is the one putting the accusations back on his superiors that they lied and deceived.’

Mr Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell was ‘either culpable or an ignorant buffoon’.

‘I don’t believe he’s the latter and we have no evidence of the former so we have to wait for the commission to do its job.’

Ms Furness said it was incumbent on Cardinal Pell to ask Bishop Mulkearns why Ridsdale was being moved yet again but Cardinal Pell said he was happy to take the bishop’s word that it was necessary.

She asked Cardinal Pell if he thought Bishop Mulkearns was ‘just one bad apple, as it were, within the Catholic Church’, to which he replied that he could nominate another Bishop whose actions were just as ‘grave and inexplicable’.

The cardinal was questioned about whether the role of the bishop in the structure of the church meant his conduct wasn’t challenged.

‘The authority of the bishop is very powerful and especially in climates where free discussion is not encouraged, and where information is kept very tight,that these abuses were able to go on,’ Dr Pell said. Ms Furness SC said all parish priests, assistant priests, advisers and consultors collectively failed to protect children, but Cardinal Pell said that was a vast and misleading overstatement.

Cardinal Pell said a universal failure would mean that everybody knew.

‘A collective failure would be that primarily those with effective responsibility knew and did not act.

‘For those who were ignorant, I think it is improper to impute responsibility to them.’

Cardinal Pell said the primary responsibility to deal with claims against Risdale, commenting that others who knew of the allegations also had some moral responsibility to speak up.

He told the commission that he excluded himself from that moral responsibility as he had been ignorant of the complaints against Ridsdale.

‘When there is ignorance, when the ignorance is not wilful, when the ignorance does not represent somebody not doing their authority, I can’t see that responsibility can be imputed to them.’

When asked if he accepted any responsibility at all for Ridsdale being moved between parishes during the time he was a consultor, Cardinal Pell said he did not.

The commission heard that Bishop Mulkearns knew about complaints against Ridsdale when he moved him between parishes but Cardinal Pell said he was not told about it during his time as an adviser to the bishop from 1977.

Cardinal Pell said the bishop and senior cleric Monsignor Leo Fiscalini deceived him and other advisers at meetings which discussed moving Ridsdale, whose offending was common knowledge in at least two parishes. Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said Cardinal Pell would be held to be culpable if he, like Bishop Mulkearns, knew about the offending and did not act. The Cardinal stated that he found it unacceptable Ridsdale was moved between parishes, including to Inglewood in 1975, after receiving a victim’s complaint.
‘It’s unacceptable because of the risk it presented to children in Inglewood and that was exacerbated by the fact it doesn’t seem as though any effort was made to withdraw Ridsdale, at least for a period, for counselling or advice or help,’ he said. Ridsdale was the parish priest at Apollo Bay in 1974 to 1975 but put in for a transfer in February 1975 after a man told him there was pub talk about him and children. He went to Inglewood, where he left overnight in 1975 after a policeman complained about him interfering with his son.

Cardinal Pell said moving Ridsdale was unacceptable and at the time the view would have been that he should have been at least sent for counselling as a minimum step if a bishop knew it was a first offence.

‘These were different times with different sets of predispositions,’ Cardinal Pell said.

‘But whatever the predispositions, it’s unsatisfactory. The cardinal told waiting media earlier in the day that he had ‘the full backing of the Pope’ after a weekly meeting with him earlier in the day. Cardinal Pell is making his third royal commission appearance from Rome because of medical advice he should not fly to Australia.

During his first day of questioning he told the commission that he had heard rumours of pedophile priests and suspected a Christian Brother of ‘pedophilic activity’ in the 1970s but insists he had no authority to act. Cardinal Pell also admitted he heard gossip in the early 1970s about Mildura parish priest Monsignor John Day being accused of pedophile activity. He described Mulkearns’ handling of Ridsdale as a catastrophe for victims and the church and admitted the church had made enormous mistakes.

Complete Article HERE!