24 Mar 2014

Australian cardinal appears at commission

7:30 pm on 24 March 2014

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, has told an inquiry into child sexual abuse he should have exercised greater oversight in the case of a victim who sued the church.

John Ellis was abused by a priest in the 1970s and in 2007 lost his case against the Catholic Church, with a judge ruling it was not a legal entity which could be sued.

Conflicting accounts exist of what Cardinal Pell, the former Archibishop of Sydney, knew about the case when Mr Ellis sued the Church.

The hearing room at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney was packed to capacity the cardinal gave his highly anticipated testimony, the ABC reports.

He said the legal battle was disproportionate, and conceded he should have exercised more regular and stringent oversight of the case.

All complaints had to be taken seriously and investigated, Cardinal Pell said. "I don't think it's just to the person accused for automatically an accusation to be accepted."

Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness asked Cardinal Pell for data supporting his claim that a number of abuse cases were not validated - a request which sparked a round of applause in the court.