VATICAN CITY, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Australia's most senior Catholic cardinal, George Pell, said the Church committed "absolutely scandalous," "enormous mistakes" in dealing with sexual abuse.
Through a video connection from Rome to an Australian courtroom investigating child sexual abuse, Pell said he was not there "to defend the indefensible" when asked if he knew if pedophiles were active while under his watch.
"The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down," he said.
Pell previously served as Archbishop of Melbourne and then Archbishop of Sydney before serving as the Vatican's prefect of Holy See finances, or treasurer.
He admitted he heard "fleeting references" and rumors of "eccentricities" and "misbehavior' of priests teaching at Australian Catholic schools -- priests accused of sex acts from kissing and swimming naked with students to those accused of rape and molestation in Australia. There were thousands of victims.
"If effective action had been taken earlier an enormous amount of suffering would have been avoided," he said.
One priest was moved from parish to parish while the Church dismissed credible allegations of abuse, a circumstance Pell said was "absolutely scandalous."