(BBC) – Cardinal George Pell knew of child sexual abuse by priests in Australia as early as the 1970s but failed to take action, a landmark inquiry found.
The findings on Cardinal Pell – an ex-Vatican treasurer – come from Australia’s royal commission into child sexual abuse, which ended in 2017.
Details were only revealed on Thursday. A court had previously redacted the report because the cleric was facing child abuse charges at the time.
The cardinal has denied the findings.
He said he was “surprised” by the inquiry’s report, adding: “These views are not supported by evidence.”
Cardinal Pell was convicted of child abuse in 2018, but last month was released from jail after Australia’s top court overturned his conviction.
In over 100 pages concerning Pell’s actions, the commissioners found the cardinal knew of paedophile priests both early in his career, and as he progressed.
In particular, the commissioners dismissed the cleric’s long-stated defence that he didn’t know about the actions of his former colleague Gerald Ridsdale. in the Victorian city of Ballarat.
Ridsdale is in jail for hundreds of child abuse offences – and is considered Australia’s worst convicted paedophile priest.
“We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps,” the commissioners said in the report.
“We are also satisfied that by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but he also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it,” the commission said.