Updated: 15:17, Tuesday March 18, 2014
One of Australia’s worst paedophile priests told victims they were ‘God’s little angel’ and that his abuse was ‘the Lord’s work’.
Former Catholic priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale has pleaded guilty to 30 charges, including 28 counts of indecent assault on children in Victoria’s western district, between 1961 and 1980.
Ridsdale, 79, abused children as young as four, and assaulted 11 boys and three girls after befriending them and their families.
One of his victims said Ridsdale hid behind the Catholic Church as he abused.
‘I trusted you Gerald Ridsdale, you represented God and all that is good,’ she said, reading her victim impact statement to the Victorian County Court on Tuesday.
‘You exploited, manipulated and humiliated me while you hid behind the veil of the church.
‘My only hope for you Gerald Ridsdale is that you do have an understanding of the misery and damage you have done to me and that you’re never released to hurt another child.’
Ridsdale indecently assaulted the girl, who was under the care of the Catholic diocese when she was aged between 10 and 13, while driving her to Warrnambool for a holiday.
The court also heard Ridsdale told one four-year-old girl she was special and ‘God’s little angel’ while grooming her for abuse.
He then put an ice cream between his legs and indecently assaulted her.
He later raped her, and on another occasion abused her in the confessional box after telling her she needed to be punished for her sins.
Ridsdale also told a nine-year-old altar boy that what he was doing ‘the Lord’s work’ as he abused him, the court heard.
Several victims told the pre-sentence hearing they had lost faith in the Catholic Church due to its refusal to act on complaints against Ridsdale.
One victim said his belief that figures within the church knew about Ridsdale’s abuse but failed to act was backed up by Cardinal George Pell’s submission to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry .
‘I’m unable to have any faith in them as an organisation,’ he said in his victim statement.
Ridsdale is already serving a long jail sentence for multiple child sex offences.
The plea hearing continues.
Court hears paedophile priest said sex abuse was ‘the Lord’s work’
The Sydney Morning Herald
March 19, 2014
Guilty of 30 charges against 14 children: Paedophile priest Gerard Ridsdale. Photo: Supplied
Gerald Ridsdale, one of Australia’s worst paedophile priests, told one of his victims ”it was the Lord’s work”, a court has heard.
Another victim said his belief that the Catholic Church hierarchy had known what Ridsdale and other priests were doing was reinforced by Cardinal George Pell’s evidence to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse last year.
Cardinal Pell told the inquiry he had only recently discovered that former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns had destroyed documents relating to sexual abuse allegations. Bishop Mulkearns was responsible for shifting Ridsdale and several other priests around parishes after concerns were raised by families.
Cardinal Pell, who has been been appointed the Prefect for the Economy of the Holy See, one of the Vatican’s most senior roles, responsible for reforming its administration and finances, lived with Ridsdale at a Ballarat presbytery in the early 1970s but said he was not a close friend.
Cardinal Pell admitted he made a mistake when he supported Ridsdale at his first court appearance on child sex offences in Melbourne in 1993, claiming he had ”little idea of the full extent and gravity of his crimes”.
Ridsdale, 79, appeared in the County Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to 30 charges involving sex offences against 11 boys and three girls between 1961 and 1980.
Wearing glasses and a woollen jumper, Ridsdale needed a walking frame to make his way into the dock and kept his head bowed during the plea hearing.
Crown prosecutor Susan Borg said that one of Ridsdale’s victims had been a ward of the state at the Nazareth House orphanage in Ballarat when he preyed on her from 1962 to 1964, when she was aged 10 to 13.
On one occasion, Ridsdale wiped away the girl’s tears after abusing her and told her what had happened was ”our little secret”. He told the girl he loved her and she was his special little girl before giving her a white bag of boiled lollies.
When the young girl decided to tell one of the nuns what Ridsdale was doing to her, she was told ”good little girls don’t talk about such things – off you go”.
In her victim impact statement, the woman told the court that she had trusted Ridsdale because ”he represented God and all that was good”.
She had been convinced she was going to hell and felt evil, dirty, scared and confused because of Ridsdale’s abuse. The plea hearing continues.