Senior staff from the Catholic Education Office in Victoria have strongly rejected Cardinal George Pell's evidence that he was not made fully aware of Fr Peter Searson's paedophile behaviour while parish priest of Doveton in Melbourne in the 1980s.
— Fairfax Media
In February, Cardinal Pell told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he believed CEO staff lied to him because they feared he "would not accept the status quo."
In evidence yesterday, former CEO deputy director Peter Annett told the Commission that parishioners and staff at Doveton's Holy Family school would have been "cheering from the rooftops" if Cardinal Pell, then an auxilliary bishop in the Melbourne Archdiocese, had worked to convince then-Archbishop Frank Little to remove Fr Searson.
When asked by counsel assisting Gail Furness to respond to Cardinal Pell's claim that the CEO failed to properly inform him about Fr Searson, Mr Annett replied: "I admit some shock that [Cardinal Pell] referred to inaction on the part of that CEO. I was disappointed and perhaps angry."
The Commission has heard evidence that Holy Family school parents and teachers, as well as CEO staff, repeatedly raised concerns about the risk Fr Searson posed to children.
Msgr Thomas Doyle, former executive director of the CEO, told the Commission Cardinal Pell's evidence that he was deceived by education office staff was wrong.
"I thought he was quite wrong and I think I was very disappointed that he said those things about the Catholic Education Office because I don't think they were true," he said.
Contrary to Cardinal Pell's claim, Msgr Doyle said the CEO would have welcomed his assistance in removing the priest.
Allan Dooley, a consultant with the CEO, told the Commission office staff were frank in their disclosures to Cardinal Pell about Fr Searson.
"I found it difficult that Cardinal Pell came to that conclusion, the one of deceit," he said.
Catherine Briant, a former CEO consultant with responsibility for the Holy Family school between 1989 and 1990, told the Commission she was unaware of allegations Fr Searson was a sexual abuser at that time.
Fr Searson was suspended in 1997, a year after Cardinal Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne.
Vic priest found guilty of school rape (AAP/Seven News)