Cardinal Pell, Pope’s Close Ally, Busted for Child Abuse

The big news is that Cardinal Pell has officially been charged with several counts of sexually abusing children. He has been given leave of absence by the Vatican (here, here, here). It is important to note that there is nothing new about these charges. See here for a summary of many prior charges.

Pope Francis knew this long before he selected Pell to become the Vatican’s minister of the economy/treasury – considered to be the #3 position in the Vatican. Pope Francis also placed Pell on his 9-member Council of Cardinals. NCR noted, “Pell previously faced an allegation of historical sexual abuse in 2002, shortly following his appointment as archbishop of Sydney. Charges were not brought by police over the allegation.”

There was even older historical evidence. The Washington Post reports: “In Ballarat, where he served as episcopal vicar for education from 1973 to 1984, untold numbers of children were beaten and sexually assaulted by priests and nuns at the St. Alipius Primary School.” After studying at Oxford, Pell returned to Ballarat as education vicar. WP continues:

“Gerald Ridsdale served as chaplain of St. Alipius in the early 1970s. [Pell and he] shared a house in the diocese for about two years.

Around that time and for years after, Ridsdale and several other priests at the school sexually abused their students on a near daily basis. When allegations against Ridsdale began to surface in the mid-1970s, he was relocated to other parishes, following a pattern that the Catholic Church has used in other priest abuse cases, including those uncovered by the Boston Globe in 2002.

Ridsdale would go on to tell his family that his victims likely numbered in the ‘hundreds.’

Pell served as a character witness for Ridsdale at his trial. Ridsdale was found guilty and ended up getting about 30 years. One of the victims was his nephew, who testified that he informed Pell about the crimes, but was ignored.


Although Cardinal Pell had not been formally charged with child abuse or endangerment, rumors of his involvement in these crimes were prevalent long before Pope Francis picked him for top positions in the Vatican. Given the gravity of the alleged crimes, and Pope Francis’ proclamation of zero tolerance for child abuse, he might have been expected to choose key people who were above suspicion. He obviously did not.

As previously noted, the Pope’s Commission on Child Abuse has accomplished very little. The only two victims on the Commission have both resigned, complaining of its failure to accomplish anything meaningful. Although the worldwide child abuse scandal was a pressing problem that embarrassed John Paul and, it is thought, led to the resignation of Pope Benedict, Pope Francis took a remarkably casual approach to it. He also had a history of making dubious claims about child abuse while he was in Argentina, but that is another story.


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