Bishop ‘facilitated’ child sex abuse, inquiry told

A retired Australian bishop has told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry that his predecessor “effectively facilitated” child sexual abuse by leaving known paedophiles in ministry and this was “absolutely” unChristlike.

Bishop Peter Connors said his predecessor in Ballarat diocese, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, made “terrible errors” and showed “great naivety” in moving paedophiles Gerald Ridsdale and Paul David Ryan from parish to parish despite knowing they were child abusers.

”I can’t see how a bishop could possibly do the things Bishop Mulkearns did today,” said Bishop Connors, who was bishop of Ballarat from 1997 until last year.

Later, when current Bishop Paul Bird said the Church’s emphasis was now on victims, Bishop Connors added: ”We were listening to insurers and lawyers, who said ‘admit nothing’.”

Bishop Bird said the diocese had accepted 107 of 116 claims of child abuse, of which 67 were by Ridsdale — who was laicised in 1993 and is eligible for release from jail this year, aged 79.

He said Bishop Mulkearns should have removed Ridsdale from ministry when the first complaint was made against him in 1975.

“From my reading of the accounts it wasn’t wilful blindness. It was a tragic mistake on his part,” Bishop Bird ssaid.

“He explained it to me…. It was, he believed, the accepted opinion at the time that dismissal was not the first option, but that a person might be referred for treatment in the hope that they can correct their behaviour.”

Bishop Bird said Bishop Mulkearns had decided not to appear at the inquiry because he “had a stroke some years ago and his ability to concentrate or remember details is now quite limited”.

The inquiry chairwoman asked whether Bishop Mulkearns still regularly said Mass. Told yes, she required that he appear at a future date.

The Catholic Church’s insurer told the inquiry it has paid out about $NZ36 million to 600 victims of child abuse in Victoria. Catholic Church Insurance chief executive officer Peter Rush said it refused to make payouts for offences that occurred after the date the Church had knowledge of an offender.


The Age

The Age


Facing the Truth (Catholic response to inquiry)

Image: The Age

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