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‘Impossible’ for Pell to reveal genitals from under robes, court told
It would have been impossible for then-archbishop George Pell to reveal his genitals after officiating at a Sunday Mass without somebody helping him to remove his clerical robes, a Catholic pastoral associate has told a Melbourne court.
Rodney Dearing, who was a choir member at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne during the late 1990s, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday that Cardinal Pell would have required assistance to remove his robe after every Mass.
Cardinal Pell, 76, faces multiple historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants. He is facing a hearing to determine whether he stands trial. Details of the charges are yet to be revealed. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Mr Dearing said the robes were heavy and detailed and “not something that was easy to manoeuvre”.
He said Cardinal Pell would have required help to dress and undress before and after each Mass.
During cross-examination, one of Cardinal Pell’s defence barristers, Ruth Shann, asked Mr Dearing: “It [the robe] was not able to be parted in the middle to reveal one’s genitals? Or indeed, parted to one side to reveal one’s genitals?”
Mr Dearing responded “No.”
The court also heard one of the sexual assault allegations Cardinal Pell faced involved two choristers who allegedly disappeared from a procession from the cathedral after Mass.
Mr Dearing also told the court that choir members at St Patrick’s began to be more closely monitored in the late 1990s after sexual assault allegations began to emerge about other Catholic clergy.
When asked about sexual assault allegations levelled at Cardinal Pell, Mr Dearing said he had never seen the then-archbishop do anything untoward.
Mr Dearing told police: “I can’t understand knowing the layout [of the cathedral] and how things worked, how it could have occurred.”
The court has not released details about the charges.
But the defence has cross-examined witnesses about their interactions with Cardinal Pell at a swimming pool, cinema, and a lake in rural Victoria, and other locations.
Cardinal Pell is accused of abusing a complainant while watching the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind at a country Victorian cinema, and abusing another complainant at a community pool.
The hearing also heard from five other witnesses, including four former choir members and Christian Brother Peter Finnigan who was choir marshall at St Patrick’s Cathedral during the late 1990s.
The hearing, before Magistrate Belinda Wallington, continues.