Cardinal George Pell has completed his first day of testimony to the Royal Commission on the Response to Institutional Child Sex Abuse. He will appear several more times this week.
Today, counsel Gail Furness kept her questions pretty general. It's possible that she was getting him to make statements that she may challenge later. We will have to wait and see.
Observers found that Pell had an excellent memory for many things, but when it came to knowledge of pedophile priests it suddenly became very poor.
I’ve spoken to abuse survivor and head of the Care Leavers Australia Network [CLAN], Leonie Sheedy, who drove from Geelong to Sydney to sit-in on the hearing.
Sheedy and her group of survivors, who she affectionately refers to as “clannies,” have travelled to almost every hearing of the royal commission since it first began investigating institutional abuse in 2013.
“I think that it’s very interesting that Pell could describe in detail the rooms where he lived in Ballarat, and the buildings, and he could remind Furness about exactly how far Swan Hill was from Mildura, but when it came to pedophile priests suddenly he just didn’t know anything,” Sheedy says.
“I also found it unbelievable that Pell said boys swimming in the nude with their superiors did not register as a problem to him.”
Sheedy says she hopes that in the next few days, Furness presses Pell about what action he took when he finally did become aware of the child sexual abuse that had occurred within the Diocese of Ballarat, even if he did not know about it while he worked there.
Eight CLAN members attended the Sydney end of the hearings, she said. It was an emotional day for them, because one of their members, a 71 year-old abuse survivor, had died overnight.
“We tied a black ribbon outside the court and held hands and remembered all those who died in care, after they left care, and those who took their own lives,” Sheedy said.