Catholic bishop ‘enabled paedophile priests’

Date: Dec 11, 2017

A Catholic bishop who oversaw the diocese of Ballarat for over 25 years cared little for the children and frequently left them in danger from paedophile priests, according to a government report.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that Ronald Mulkearns, who died last year, ignored allegations against molesters within the church in an effort to avoid scandals.

Bishop 'was aware' of paedophilia

Mulkearns was consecrated as a bishop in 1971 and resigned in 1997. But during his time at the Ballarat diocese he enabled some of the worst known child abuse offenders in the church.

This included Gerald Ridsdale, who has served the last 23 years in prison after admitting to abusing dozens of children while a priest. However, prosecutors suspect his victims run into the hundreds.

One incident, published in The Australian, recounted how Ridsdale had raped a 12-year-old boy just one hour before giving last rites to the child's father, who was seriously ill in hospital.

Despite being aware of Ridsdale's offending, Mulkearns allowed a 14-year-old boy to live with the paedophile priest at Mortlake presbytery for over six months in 1982.

Mulkearns allegedly ignored the boy's mother's concerns when she sought reassurance over the matter. The teenager told the royal commission he was sexually abused almost every day during his stay.

Offending priests moved to different parishes

Between 1980 and 2015, the Ballarat diocese received claims from 140 people that priests and religious staff had committed child abuse offences, royal commission figures revealed.

Of these, 90 per cent of allegations were made against just seven priests. Seventy-eight substantiated and alleged claims were against Ridsdale. Mulkearns often shifted paedophile priests from parish to parish once their offending came to light.

"[The bishop's] concern was overwhelmingly about protecting the reputation of the church and avoiding scandal. There was little evidence that he was concerned to protect children from these priests," the commission's report said.

Mulkearns died of colon cancer last year, leaving more than $2 million to the Catholic Church. Officials later announced that the money would go towards compensating victims of child abuse.

The disgraced bishop was buried on common ground, with the church refusing to inter him into St Patrick's Cathedral like his five predecessors.

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