May 26, 2015
AUSTRALIA’s most prolific paedophile priest admitted in a chilling interview after his first conviction that he was unable to control his evil urges.
Gerald Ridsdale said that by the 1980s his decades-long catalogue of sex crimes against children was an open secret as the Catholic Church continued to shuffle him around Victoria.
In a series of letters and interviews published by the royal commission into child abuse sitting in Ballarat, it is revealed church authorities did little to curb Ridsdale’s offending except provide counselling and move him between parishes.
Talking to church investigators in 1994, Ridsdale said at one point while stationed at Mortlake in the 1980s there was no stopping him.
“It was no secret around Mortlake eventually about me and my behaviour; there was talk all around among the children, and one lot of parents came to me,” he said.
“I got out of control again. I went haywire there. Altar boys mainly.”
Ridsdale has admitted abusing at least 54 kids but has said the real number is in the hundreds.
The Herald Sun revealed this week that the mother of a boy who was living with Ridsdale begged then bishop Ronald Mulkearns to move him, but he refused, acting only when she threatened to call police.
The commission had previously heard similar allegations that Mulkearns knew a paedophile priest was sexually abusing children before suspending him from duties.
In a letter to a victim in 1979, Ridsdale wrote as if they were lovers and told him some good would come from his abuse.
“I don’t know how much you know about me or how much you’ve guessed, but you’re the first person I’ve ever wanted to open up to. You’re the first kid I have been honest with and warned off (a bit late unfortunately, but I suppose all experiences bring some good out in us),” he wrote.
At one point the paedophile bragged to bishop Mulkearns of a close relationship with a young girl he met while in White Cliffs, NSW.
But instead of acting on the revelation, Mulkearns warned Ridsdale he wasn’t to do anything that “might rebound on us later”.
In 1988 Ridsdale asked Mulkearns if he could step down from parish work “so that I may be removed from the kind of work that has proved to be a temptation and a difficulty for me”.
Mulkearns replied it would be an inappropriate step, adding: “I have every hope that nothing more will eventuate, but we have to do our part to ensure that it does not.”
In another damning letter Mulkearns, on legal advice, refused to meet a mother of a victim of Ridsdale’s who had sought a meeting to discuss the abuse.
The letters come as a senior priest conceded he thought Ridsdale’s serial offending must have been discussed at top-level meetings attended by Cardinal George Pell as early as 1977.
Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Ridsdale’s decades of abuse prior to 1993.
But Fr Adrian McInerney — now parish priest at St Alipius in east Ballarat, where dozens of kids were molested, and secretary of the church’s consultors committee in the 1970s — told the royal commission on Tuesday he thought Ridsdale’s offending would have been talked about at the committee’s regular meetings.
Fr McInerney was heckled inside and outside the hearing yesterday after he shocked victims of abuse by saying he had admired Ridsdale because of his way with kids and “for what he did for youth”.
He said he was horrified when he later learned of Ridsdale’s crimes.
Originally published as Ridsdale ‘went haywire’ on altar boys