Cardinal George Pell has been accused in court of alleged abuse during a water skiing trip in rural Victoria.
The Vatican treasurer, 76, whose committal hearing for multiple allegations of historic sexual abuse continued at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, was alleged to have been invited to join a Catholic family for an afternoon when he was working as an assistant priest.
A family member said Cardinal Pell arrived with another priest at a lake in regional Victoria just after lunch and enjoyed a trip on skis behind the family speedboat before joining them for afternoon tea. His visit apparently lasted about two hours.
However, Robert Richter, Cardinal Pell’s lead barrister, questioned the father of the alleged male victim about why he did not mention Cardinal Pell’s name in a statement to Sano Task Force in 2015.
In heated exchanges, Mr Richter told the witness, who cannot be named, that the reason Cardinal Pell was not mentioned was because he did “nothing wrong”.
The witness had only mentioned in the statement about another priest accused of abusing the son in another location, Mr Richter said.
“Can I put this to you – by 2015 Pell was a Cardinal … by 1999 he had become archbishop of Melbourne, then the archbishop of Sydney then he became a Cardinal,” he said.
“He was the most prominent Catholic personality in Australia.
“Police came to speak to you about that Father Pell had done something … and you don’t say anything?”
The witness said he had only been made aware of the abuse allegations regarding Cardinal Pell a week before making the statement – after a conversation with another family member.
Mr Richter suggested that claim was “an invention”.
“You’ve just made that up after you made your statement … at some stage between July 2015 and today you made that up.”
The witness strongly denied the accusation, saying to Mr Richter via live video-link to Court 22: “That’s an insult.”
The father later confirmed he had no direct knowledge of anything “untoward” happening at the lake outing in the 1970s.
The court also later heard from the brother of another accuser who told how he once overheard the alleged victim talking in a drunken “emotional outburst”.
The witness said he heard his brother say: “You don’t know what’s happened … some f–––ed up stuff has happened to me.”
Cardinal Pell, who stood aside from his role in Rome when he was charged in June last year, denies all the allegations against him.
The hearing was unexpectedly adjourned after lunch when a visibly distressed Belinda Wallington, the magistrate in the case, said she had received “devastating news”.
It later emerged fellow magistrate Stephen Myall had died.
In a statement the Chief Magistrate said: “Mr Myall was a much loved and respected member of the judiciary who worked at a number of court locations.
“A number of matters before the court were temporarily stood down this afternoon to allow our magistrates to mourn their colleague.”
The Pell case is due to resume on Monday.