Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
George Pell to give latest Royal Commission evidence by video link -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MARK COLVIN: The child abuse Royal Commission has decided to let Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, give his latest evidence by video link.

The royal commission chairman Peter McClellan ruled this afternoon that he was satisfied the long-haul flight from Rome could pose a threat to the Cardinal's health.

George Pell will now face questions about his knowledge of clerical sexual abuse in the dioceses of Melbourne and Ballarat at the end of the month.

Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Last December, Cardinal George Pell's application to give his evidence to the royal commission by video link from Rome was denied.

But today, the commission chairman Peter McClellan agreed to Cardinal Pell's application.

PETER MCLELLAN: Although people with the conditions that Cardinal Pell has may fly long distances, it is apparent from the medical report that in the case of Cardinal Pell, there is a risk to his health if he undertook such travel at the present time.

Having regard to the nature of his ailments, it could not be expected that his likely to improve, and remove those risks.

Although it remains preferable that he give evidence in Australia, when the alternative that he give evidence by video link is available, the commissioners are satisfied that course should be adopted.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Cardinal Pell's lawyers have given the commission a medical report from his doctor in Rome, the details of which were kept confidential until today's hearing.

Peter McClellan read from the report.

PETER MCLELLAN: Cardinal Pell is suffering from hypertension, ischemic heart disease, complicated by a previous myocardial infarction; cardiac dysfunction, related to the arterial hypertension and previous ischemia.

Due to that outlined above, the professor says the undertaking of a long journey could induce an episode of heart failure, and were this to occur during the flight, it would also be difficult to treat.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Paul O'Dwyer SC, counsel for former school principal Graeme Sleeman, who fought the Melbourne Archdiocese over its inaction on a paedophile priest, argued for the public release of Cardinal Pell's full medical report.

But Justice McClellan ruled the relevant extracts of the report had been disclosed in his ruling and he would not release the full report.

David Ridsdale was sexually abused by his uncle, the paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale. Cardinal Pell denies Mr Ridsdale's evidence that he tried to keep him quiet about his abuse.

David Ridsdale is disappointed George Pell won't have to give evidence in person.

DAVID RIDSDALE: It's frustrating because of a desire of all the survivors to have him here in person, you know, I think it was telling that they spent a lot of time in the directions hearing asking for personal privacy protection, considering the level of privacy that we've all had to reveal.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Justice McClellan also ruled the commission would require the evidence of Bishop Ronald Mulkearns. Bishop Mulkearns was the bishop of Ballarat from 1971 to his retirement in 1997.

The commission has heard the bishop has bowel cancer and a life expectancy of a few months.

Abuse survivors and their supporters have been calling for him to answer questions at a public inquiry for years.

He was excused from the Victorian parliamentary inquiry on health grounds, and has previously been excused from giving evidence to the royal commission.

Judy Courtin is a lawyer acting for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

JUDY COURTIN: The evidence that's come before the royal commission in recent times, it's pretty clear that Bishop Mulkearns, and others, knew full well what was going on with these offenders, and in fact protected them, sent them on to other parishes and other places, and protected them at the risk of further children being raped and sexually assaulted.

One would hope that Bishop Mulkearns has absolutely nothing to lose, and that he can find the goodness in his heart and tell some of the truth.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The royal commission intends to hear Cardinal Pell's evidence over about three days from February the 29th.

A date for Bishop Mulkearns’ appearance before the inquiry is yet to be set.

MARK COLVIN: Samantha Donovan.