Australian sex abuse victims await cardinal's testimony
Australians who were raped and molested by Catholic priests when they were children are hoping to learn the truth about what a top Vatican cardinal knew about their attackers when he testifies last night before an investigative commission at a Rome hotel.
Thanks in part to a crowd-funding campaign, about two dozen Australian sex abuse survivors and their companions travelled across the planet to be on hand when Cardinal George Pell testifies via video link before Australia's Royal Commission. It's the third time that the Australian cardinal, Pope Francis' top financial adviser, has testified about the sex abuse scandal, but the current round has generated intense international attention because it is taking place a short walk from the Vatican.
The commission, which is more than half-way through a 435 million Australian dollar ($300 million) government-authorised probe into how all Australian institutions dealt with abuse, agreed to let Pell testify from Rome because he was too ill to travel home. Two weeks ago, it also agreed to let victims be on hand to re-create the type of public hearing that Pell would be facing in Australia.
David Ridsdale, who was abused for four years by his uncle, the notorious pedophile Gerald Ridsdale, said he had done 17 press interviews before Pell's testimony even began - and was grateful that the horror of what transpired in Ballarat was finally getting known outside of Australia.
The deeply Catholic town in Australia's Victoria state has been devastated by a huge number of abuse victims, scores of whom have killed themselves in a cluster of abuse-related suicides unseen anywhere else.
David Ridsdale said Ballarat's survivors merely want Pell to "stand up and take responsibility on behalf of the church" for what transpired in Pell's own hometown.
“We're here to seek the truth. We're here to heal our city," David Ridsdale said. "We have the highest suicide rate among men in Australia. We have some of the worst drinking and violence problems. And it all stems from that abuse."
The commission's current hearings relate to Ballarat and how the Melbourne archdiocese responded to allegations of abuse, including when Pell served as a Melbourne auxiliary bishop.
Pell, who was born and raised in Ballarat, was ordained a priest there in 1966 and was a consultant to Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who moved Gerald Ridsdale between parishes for years.