Three former Catholic education officers have denied Cardinal George Pell’s claims their office deceived him about the activities of a violent and sexually abusive priest.
Former Catholic Education Office director Monsignor Thomas Doyle and his deputy Peter Annett told the sex abuse royal commission of their shock, disappointment and anger on hearing Dr Pell allege the office withheld information about pedophile priest Peter Searson in the 1980s.
Cardinal Pell, an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne in the ’80s, told the royal commission in March education officials were fearful of telling him the full story about Searson because they knew he would be “decisive” and not accept the status quo.
In giving his evidence from Rome where he is now the Vatican’s finance chief, Dr Pell also said he thought the education office at the time was protecting Archbishop Frank Little.
But Mgr Doyle and other witnesses categorically denied this was the case.
“I don’t agree with that evidence. I don’t agree that the Catholic Education Office intended to deceive Bishop Pell, so I thought his statement was wrong,” the Monsignor told the commission on Wednesday.
He was disappointed with the Cardinal’s claims.
“I don’t think they were true,” he said.
The now retired priest also said the office would have welcomed then Bishop Pell’s assistance in removing Searson.
The commission has heard evidence Searson threatened one little girl by holding a knife to her chest, sexually molested children in confession and threatened people with a gun.
Searson died in 2009 without being charged.
He was suspended from duty in 1997, a year after Dr Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne.
The commission has also heard that Archbishop Little ignored repeated requests to remove Searson.
Mr Annett said on Wednesday at one stage in the late ’80s the number one priority for the office was to get Searson removed from the parish.
“I would have thought our staff would be completely frank with Bishop Pell and be cheering from the rooftops if he was able to take action,” he said.
He said he had to admit to “some shock” at what Dr Pell said in Rome.
“I was disappointed and perhaps angry, but certainly very disappointed,” Mr Annett said.
Mr Annett, Mgr Doyle and former education consultant Allan Dooley said there was never any instruction to keep information from then auxiliary bishop Pell.
A fourth witness, former education official Catherine Briant who in 1989 took over as zone officer with responsibility for Doveton from Mr Dooley, said she was not briefed on problems at the Holy Family school.
She dealt with complaints he was bullying and harassing staff. She had no dealing with Bishop Pell, nor was she ever instructed to keep information from him, she said.
The hearing into widespread clerical abuse in Melbourne, which started last November, concluded on Wednesday.