Another allegation has surfaced concerning Dr George Pell’s knowledge of sexual abuse in the Ballarat Diocese while he was posted there in the 1970s.

This allegation comes hot on the heels of Pell’s announcement Tuesday that he would stand aside from his position as Archbishop of Sydney while an inquiry was conducted into allegations that he had abused a 12-year-old boy while a seminarian.

In a statement to the media Pell said that the allegations against him were lies and that he denied them totally and utterly.

The alleged events never happened. I repeat, emphatically, that the allegations are false, Pell said.

A man whom Pell had befriended as a young boy, yesterday told Sydney Star Observer that he had warned Pell sometime prior to 1974 that Edward Dowlan, a Christian Brother who served at a number of schools in the Ballarat Diocese, was sexually abusing boys under his care.

Pell has previously denied that he was aware of Dowlan’s abuse in the 1970s.

In June 2002, Dr Pell told The Age that he had no recollection of a conversation during which two former students at St Patrick’s College approached him at the local swimming pool and informed him that Dowlan was allegedly sexually abusing other students.

Pell, who was then Episcopal Vicar for Education for the Diocese, claimed not to remember the conversation.

At a distance of 28 years, I have no recollection of any such conversation. If I was approached and thought the stories plausible, I would have informed the Christian Brothers, Pell told The Age.

I do not remember hearing the name of Edward Dowlan at that stage; a man I hardly knew. I came back to Ballarat in 1973, and was never attached to St Alipius, which Dowlan left at the end of 1971. He taught at St Patrick’s in 1973-74.

However if this new allegation is correct, Pell knew about Dowlan’s abuse by 1974.

Pell was in Ballarat when I was there and we were very good friends, said the man who spoke to the Star yesterday, on the condition of anonymity. He helped me through college, and he knew my mother in Swan Hill very well. [Another Brother] used to bash boys to pieces, often in front of 48 other kids. He was a strong bastard. Other blokes could tell you exactly the same thing as me. Dowlan wasn’t any better, and in his case, it wasn’t just physical abuse. He used to touch the guys.

Well, I told George about [the other Brother] and about what Brother Dowlan was doing -¦ I asked George what I should do and he said something like -˜Don’t you worry about that. If he touches you, you tell me.’

The man left St Patrick’s in 1974 and recalls this conversation taking place in a car in Ballarat sometime in his last years at the college.

Dr Pell was approached for comment on these allegations yesterday but a spokesperson told the Star that the Archbishop was on leave and unavailable for comment.

It is unclear if Dr Pell told anyone of this conversation. It does not seem that he told the then Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns. I’ve certainly got no recollection of his ever doing that, and I’m pretty sure that I’d remember that, Mulkearns told the Star.

It wasn’t until 1996 that Dowlan was convicted of sex offences and sentenced to six and a half years jail. He was released on parole in September 2001.

In a day of intense media scrutiny of the accusations against Dr Pell, Senator Bob Brown yesterday accused Prime Minister John Howard of a double standard in his support of Dr Pell.

Brown pointed out that Howard had reacted very differently when accusations were made against Justice Michael Kirby in March of this year. Brown suggested that Justice Kirby had not been afforded the same treatment as Dr Pell.

Interesting there, the difference in the prime minister’s approach, following the accusations by Senator Heffernan, which were found to be totally wrong, and the approach on this occasion, Brown told AAP.

But we have to be aware of the fact that justice has to take its own course. That’s what is, apparently, under way at the moment and we’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

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