One of Pope Francis' top advisers acknowledged Sunday that the Catholic Church "has made enormous mistakes" in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests over centuries, testifying at an extraordinary public hearing of Australia's Royal Commission via videolink from just a few blocks from the Vatican. Australian Cardinal George Pell was questioned about current Vatican efforts to address the scandal as well as his past in Australia, including how he dealt with abuse allegations as a priest and adviser to former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who moved Australia's most notorious pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, between parishes for years. Pell asserted at the start: "I'm not here to defend the indefensible. The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those."
Pell said the church had "mucked things up" and dismissed credible abuse allegations "in absolutely scandalous circumstances," reports the AP. He termed Mulkearns' handling of Ridsdale as a "catastrophe" but acknowledged that he too had made mistakes in often believing the priests over victims who alleged abuse. Pell said he never suspected Ridsdale but heard "one or two fleeting references" to "misbehavior" by Edward Dowlan in the 1970s; Dowlan was sentenced to six years in prison last year for abusing 20 young boys. Pell also testified that had had been aware of clerics kissing boys and of swimming naked with boys. Ridsdale's nephew, himself a victim, says Ballarat has "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." (Read more Catholic Church stories.)