A high-ranking member of the Roman Catholic Church admitted that he knew about at least one instance of child molestation by a Catholic priest, and acknowledged that he should have done more to stop it.
Cardinal George Pell of Australia made the admission on March 2 during a four-day questioning over the actions of Australian priests from the 1960s to the 1990s, which involved hundreds of children who reported being abused, according to Christian Today. Pell, who also serves as the Vatican's treasurer, explained that one boy mentioned a priest who had “misbehaved” with him "casually in conversation" in the mid-1970s, and said that he regrets not acting at the time.
"With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more,” Pell said.
The investigation, led by Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse, is paying particularly close attention to Pell because of his high status within the Vatican. As part of the exchange, Pell originally claimed that he knew the offenses were occurring and didn’t feel that he needed to stop them.
"It's a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me," Pell said of abuse by a priest who was later convicted of 138 offenses against 53 victims.
However, he later went back on his words and claimed that he “was very confused” and “responded poorly.” He acknowledged the mistakes he had made personally, as well as the role of the Church as a whole in covering up the offenses of numerous priests.
Pell denied allegations that he had bribed a victim to get him to stay silent while still a bishop in the 1990s.
"It is implausible that I tried to bribe him for a number of reasons," Pell told the commission. "It's implausible because I was an auxiliary bishop and I had no access to money or no access to significant resources. It's implausible because, of course, the attempt to bribe someone is criminal."
The charges against high-ranking officials in the Catholic church comes as part of a global investigation into child sexual abuse cases that were covered up by members of the Vatican clergy, which was first revealed as part of a Boston Globe report in 2002. On March 1, a grand jury in Pennsylvania found church leaders there to be guilty of covering up misdeeds by 50 priests over a 40-year period, according to The Guardian.