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Unredacted Report into Abuse

The Unredacted Report into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: What is the right thing to do, when should those in authority step up?

At last we have the unredacted report of the Commissions’ findings as to the responses to questioning of Cardinal George Pell. In their report, The Commission into Child Sexual Abuse advises that they reject the claims of Cardinal Pell as to his lack of knowledge of the abuses committed by a number of paedophile priests. The reports found that Cardinal Pell should have advocated to senior authorities in the Catholic Church for the removal of Gerald Ridsdale and should have advocated for the removal of Father Peter Searson. Both Gerald Ridsdale and Peter Searson have been found to be notorious abusers of children in their care within the Catholic Church.

The Commission noted the familiarity of Cardinal Pell with Gerald Ridsdale, and his history of taking young boys on camping trips, but that he did not make provision to prevent the practice from continuing, nor did he report the practice, in an effort to “avoid gossip” . The Commission also noted that, “We are satisfied (that) in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps. The most likely reason for this, as Cardinal Pell acknowledged, was the possibility that if priests were one one-on-one with a child, then they could sexually abuse a child or at least provoke gossip about such a prospect”

Cardinal Pell acknowledged that he had been given a list of grievances about assaults from Father Searson, but understood the Education Officer would be handling it, and that investigation on his part was “not his place” to do. The Commission disagreed with this lack of action on the part of Cardinal Pell and found that he should have acted.

The Commission stated: “It was incumbent on Bishop Pell, as an Auxiliary Bishop with responsibilities for the welfare of the children in the Catholic community of his region, to take such action as he could to advocate that Father Searson be removed or suspended or, at least, that a thorough investigation be undertaken of the allegations.”

The report from the Commission was initially redacted in order to not prejudice the proceedings being heard in a case against Cardinal Pell that has since been resolved, and Attorney General Christian Porter said: “Based on advice that criminal proceedings have concluded and therefore the full version of reports may be published, I have tabled the reports and ensured that they are fully available to the Australian public.”

If you or someone you know is living with the trauma of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, we urge you to seek professional help. Time shows us that these traumas of childhood live on into adulthood, and impact the victims and those around them over decades. It is important to know that there are those in the community who do stand up, do speak out, and do advocate for the protection of the vulnerable. If you choose to seek compensation speak to us and we will listen in the utmost confidence, and assist you wherever we can. Please do not hesitate to call Ross on 02 9283 5599 for assistance.

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