Australia child sex abuse inquiry told cardinal tried to bribe victim
An Australian inquiry into child sex abuse heard Wednesday that the nation’s former top Catholic cleric, now Pope Francis’ finance chief, tried to bribe a victim of a paedophile priest to keep him quiet.
David Ridsdale, who was abused by his priest uncle Gerald Ridsdale, told the royal commission that he confided in Cardinal George Pell, about the sex assaults in 1993.
“I told George I had been abused by Gerald. His first reaction was ‘Oh, right’,” Ridsdale told the hearing in Ballarat in Victoria state, alleging that Pell went on to ask what it would cost to buy his silence.
Pell, who was hand-picked by Pope Francis to make the Vatican’s finances more transparent, has repeatedly disputed Ridsdale’s version of the conversation, a lawyer for the Church told the hearing.
Ridsdale told the inquiry that his uncle began to abuse him when he was 11 and that this continued until he was 15.
He said he later confided in family friend Pell because he felt he could trust him but the cleric began to talk about Ridsdale’s family and their needs, suggesting he would have to buy a car or house to look after them.
When he asked Pell what he was talking about, he allegedly replied: “I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.”
“I remember saying to both my sisters, ‘the bastard just tried to bribe me’,” Ridsdale said.
“I have never stated that Pell offered me anything specific or tangible in our conversation, only that his attempts to direct the conversation down a particular path made me extremely suspicious of his motivations and what he was insinuating.”
Pell is not accused of any sexual abuse and has previously denied being personally involved in the cover-up of paedophile priests.
Peter Gray, the lawyer representing the Catholic Church’s witnesses to the inquiry, disputed the claim that Pell had attempted to bribe Ridsdale, and said the cardinal’s recollection of the telephone conversation was quite different.
Pell has already given evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was called after a decade of pressure to investigate widespread allegations of paedophilia.
The commission has heard harrowing allegations of child abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools.
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