ABC News (Australia)
Posted Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:30am AEDT
There are calls for a paedophile priest to be forced to give evidence about the Catholic Church to two inquiries.
Gerald Ridsdale was sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in jail for molesting at least 40 children but he could be eligible for parole in June.
Judy Courtin represents a number of Ridsdale’s victims – many of them were abused at Ballarat’s St Alipius school.
She says if he gets an early release he should be subpoenaed to speak at the royal commission and the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into institutional abuse.
“I would highly encourage both inquiries call Ridsdale and other offenders for that matter,” she said.
“We all know Ridsdale was moved from parish to parish and his insight and his knowledge of the workings of the hierarchy of the church would be very valuable evidence for both inquiries.”
There are fears the early release from prison would traumatise Ridsdale’s victims.
Ms Courtin says she has grave concerns about the effect an early parole would have on the men.
“This is going to be highly problematic,” she said.
“It will, without a doubt, bring up for the victims and the survivors their shocking experiences.
“Although this man has served his time, the ongoing sort of trauma and suffering for victims – that doesn’t stop, that will go on.”
Pell’s man helped pedophile priests
Tyhe Sun Herald (Australia) smh.com.au
June 2 2002
By Fia Cumming, Sun Herald Political Correspondent
|George Pell, right, then an auxilliary bishop in Melbourne accompanied by pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale when the latter was facing charges in 1993.|
A new row broke out yesterday over the way Catholic Archbishop George Pell handled child-sex abuse cases, with claims his appointment of a psychiatry professor to deal with victims was “insensitive”.
Dr Pell, when he was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, set up Carelink, a free counselling and support service for victims of clergy, in response to scandals plaguing the Catholic Church.
The man he chose to chair Carelink was Richard Ball, the former chair of psychiatry at St Vincents Hospital, Melbourne.
Professor Ball provided independent expert psychiatric reports which have been used in court for the defence of Catholic clergy. He had also helped treat priests accused of sexual abuse.
Chris MacIsaac of Broken Rites, a lobby group for sex victims of people in all churches, said Professor Ball’s appointment was highly insensitive.
“For the church to appoint Professor Ball, who is the treating doctor to perpetrators, is an insult to the victims,” Ms MacIsaac said.
“He is in charge of a service that is supposed to provide counselling and care to the victims.”
She said that in four criminal cases involving Catholic clergy, Professor Ball had provided a psychiatric report which had been used by the defence.
Among the trials at which Professor Ball gave independent expert evidence was that of one of Australia’s most notorious serial pedophiles, Father Gerald Ridsdale – a long-term associate of George Pell and the priest at the centre of a controversy over claims that Dr Pell tried to buy the silence of one of Ridsdale’s victims.
In July 1999, after joining Carelink, Professor Ball provided independent expert evidence in the trial of Father Ray Deal, the former private secretary to Dr Pell’s predecessor as archbishop of Melbourne, Frank Little.
Deal pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent assault against a 26-year-old man who had been placed under his supervision.
Professor Ball told the court that Deal was homosexual but usually expressed this with consenting adults who were usually not connected to his clerical role.
In 1997, shortly after Carelink was set up, Professor Ball said that priests who committed sex crimes did so deliberately and often over long periods of time.
“All who transgress are culpable and responsible, but priests and ministers may be regarded as most so,” Professor Ball said.
Yesterday, Professor Ball said he had treated Deal for his psycho-sexual problems in the lead-up to his trial in July 1999, even though he was the head of Carelink at the time.
Professor Ball said he believed Deal was the only member of the clergy about whom he had provided independent expert evidence while also treating them.
But he had in no way exonerated them.
“I have treated all sorts of psychiatric problems over the years, for clergy and other persons, including psycho-sexual problems,” he said.
Professor Ball said he had also given evidence for the prosecution in some matters, although none of those cases involved the clergy.
But he denied that there was any conflict between his work in defending priests and his Carelink role.
“In fact the opinion throughout the world is it is useful to have experience on both sides of the fence so you understand the problem,” he said.
A spokesman for Dr Pell said he was not available for comment.
The criticism of Professor Ball’s role is likely to add to public disquiet over Dr Pell’s association with and treatment of sexual offenders within the church.
Several of the pedophiles for whom Professor Ball provided expert defence were well known to the Archbishop.
Dr Pell was a priest in Ballarat from 1971 and vicar in charge of the Catholic education system in the Ballarat Diocese, covering western Victoria, from 1973 to 1984.
Three Christian Brothers teachers from that era – Edward Dowlan, Robert Best and Stephen Farrell – have been convicted of sex offences against students at St Alipius Primary and St Patrick’s College in the early 1970s.
At the same time, the school chaplain and parish priest was Gerald Ridsdale.
For a year from early 1973, Ridsdale shared a house with Dr Pell at the St Alipius Presbytery, next door to the primary school.
When Ridsdale faced pedophile charges in May 1993, Dr Pell accompanied him to court to give him moral support.
Dr Pell, then an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, said at the time that Ridsdale “had made terrible mistakes”. He said: “It was simply a gesture on my part.”
Three years later, on the eve of his swearing-in as archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Pell said he had had “no idea” about Ridsdale’s activities when they lived together.
“I lived there with him and there was not even a whisper,” Dr Pell said then. “It was a different age, it was never mentioned.”
However, Ridsdale’s 1994 trial heard evidence that the church had sent him to a psychologist as early as 1971, and that before arriving at Ballarat he had been shunted from parish to parish because of complaints.
Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, Dr Pell’s superior and close associate at the time, was certainly aware of the problems with Ridsdale, having been alerted by one of his victims.
In 1996, police considered whether Bishop Mulkearns, who has now retired, should be charged for concealing serious offences. Police concluded: “Bishop Mulkearns was, at various times, advised of the alleged commission of summary and misdemeanour offences having been committed by Ridsdale.”
Because there was no proof that Bishop Mulkearns knew about more serious sexual assaults, no charges were laid.
Ridsdale continued his pattern of abuse until he was sent to a clinic for pedophiles in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, in 1986.
When he returned in late 1990 he was appointed chaplain to the StJohn of God Hospital in Sydney.
Ridsdale’s nephew, David Ridsdale, who says he was abused by his uncle, phoned a police hotline in 1992 and brought his trail of destruction to an end.
David Ridsdale alleges that, before phoning police, he raised the matter with Dr Pell, a family friend and then the auxiliary bishop of Melbourne. He claims Dr Pell became angry and asked how much it would take to keep him quiet.
Mr Ridsdale’s allegations were published in Outrage magazine in April 1997 and repeated to 60 Minutes, which will air the story tonight.
Dr Pell has vigorously denied the claims.
Gerald Ridsdale was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1994 after pleading guilty to 46 counts of indecent assault, including buggery, against 21 children. Among hundreds of victims, those who laid charges were mainly altar boys aged 11 to 14 from the Ballaret Diocese.
Catholic insiders have questioned how Dr Pell, as Bishop Mulkearns’s head of education and a close associate of the offending priest, could have been blind to what was going on.
Shortly before being sworn in as archbishop of Melbourne in August 1996 – after Ridsdale and Best had been convicted – Dr Pell said his first priority was to restore the credibility of the church after the sex scandals.
He said: “A big priority of mine is to try to strengthen priesthood morale and protect priests who are innocent.”
A number of victims of one pedophile priest, Ron Pickering, received cash payments and two also received written apologies from Dr Pell when he was archbishop of Melbourne. Pickering was allegedly part of Dr Pell’s circle.