Cardinal George Pell could turn key witness against the Catholic Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims.
In an unprecedented move, the Cardinal, the Church’s third most senior official, is expected to be called to testify in a string of lawsuits against former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns.
It is understood to be the first time such a senior Catholic official will face victims of abuse in their pursuit of damages against the Church.
Cardinal Pell is expected to be called in dozens of cases, with lawyers for four victims telling the Supreme Court this week they had concerns about using a video link from Rome.
“His repeated refusal to act is, I think, absolutely extraordinary”
A group of 17 victims has already issued proceedings against Mulkearns and the Ballarat diocese, with at least another 18 cases imminent.
They are suing over the disgraced bishop’s handling of paedophile priests who were routinely shuffled between Ballarat parishes at his discretion.
In his testimony to the Royal Commission into child abuse, Cardinal Pell, who was a consulter to the bishop, blamed Mulkearns for the sexual abuse crisis that plagued Ballarat for decades.
“I would have to say that I can’t nominate another bishop whose actions are so grave and inexplicable,” Cardinal Pell said.
“His repeated refusal to act is, I think, absolutely extraordinary.”
Cardinal Pell told the Royal Commission that he had been deceived by Mulkearns for his own protection.
“He would realise that I didn’t know and he did not want me to share in his culpability,” he said.
The cases are set to be heard next year.
Cardinal Pell is under investigation by Victoria Police over allegations involving up to 10 boys between 1978 and 2001.