The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse will decide whether Cardinal George Pell ignored a victim's claim that a now-convicted sex offender was abusing children at St Patrick's College in Ballarat. A student of St Patrick's College approached then-Father Pell about the abuse by Brother Edward Dowlan in 1974. Father Pell replied "don't be ridiculous" and left the room. Most of the victims before the Royal Commission have been abused by Brother Dowlan, who was sentenced in March over 34 charges of indecent assault and gross indecency for abusing young boys between 1971 and 1985. The student, Timothy Green, now 53, recounted the story to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday.
Cardinal Pell has previously said he does not recall the conversation.(I wouldn’t think that would be an easy conversation to forget) The Commission's Chair, Justice Peter McClellan, told Peter Gray, SC, lawyer for all of the church witnesses for the hearing, that he should expect that Cardinal Pell will be asked to make a statement on the matter. Cardinal Pell, who is not listed as a witness, would provide a statement when asked to do so, Mr Gray replied. While the commissioners did not usually make findings about whether someone was abused, Justice McClellan said that Mr Green's claims were in a "wholly different category" because they dealt with the church's response to allegations of child abuse. "I just think it's necessary that you...and those instructing you understand that I anticipate that we'll be asked to make findings about what he has to say," he said. When Mr Green finished his testimony, Justice McClellan told Mr Gray this was his opportunity to cross-examine him about his recollection of his conversation with Cardinal Pell.
Mr Gray declined to ask questions: "Cardinal Pell, as Mr Green has already noted in his statement has a different recollection; Mr Green has acknowledged that and that no doubt will be what the Cardinal says." When he was about 12, Mr Green said he saw Father Pell at the change rooms of the Eureka Swimming Pool. Father Pell, who was a member of St Patrick's college's alumni, also said mass their occasionally at the time. While Father Pell would not have known his name, Mr Green believed he would have known he was a St Patrick's student, as he had once thanked him on behalf of the school at a function. Father Pell greeted Mr Green and his friends and as he started to change. "I was saying something like 'we've got to do something about what's going on at St Pat's," he said. "Father Pell said 'yes what do you mean?' I said Brother Dowlan is touching little boys. Father Pell said 'don't be ridiculous' and walked out," Mr Green said.As Father Pell did not ask further questions before dismissing him, "his reaction gave me the impression that he knew about Brother Dowlan but couldn't or wouldn't do anything about it".