The Standard (Australia)
3 Apr 2017, 3:30 p.m
CLERGY sexual abuse survivor Andrew Collins has called on Ballarat Diocese Bishop Paul Bird to resign after he refuted calls to remove plaques which include the name of disgraced bishop Ronald Mulkearns.
Mr Collins, who went to Rome last year to hear Cardinal George Pell’s evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, called on the Vatican to remove Bishop Bird if he would not resign. Bishop Bird told The Standard it was important to accurately record historical events where the community had gathered to celebrate with Bishop Mulkearns.
He said each school or church council had to make its own decision in regards to the removal of plaques and called on those making such decisions to also recognise the good work done by Bishop Mulkearns.
Bishop Mulkearns, who died last year, was known as the “keeper of secrets” and headed the Ballarat Diocese while paedophile members of the clergy abused children.
Mr Collins, who was sexually abused by numerous priests as a boy, said Bishop Bird’s comments showed that he did not care.
“Mulkearns was the author of his own legacy. He may have done some good things, but they are well and truly overshadowed by the bad things that he did,” he said.
“He knew about the abusers and he moved those abusers all around. He didn’t report them to the police. As far as we (abuse survivors) are concerned he essentially facilitated the rape and abuse of all those children.
“There are so many people that have taken their own lives because of his actions. There are families that don’t have sons, brothers, fathers because of him.”
In an emailed statement, Bishop Bird said: “I appreciate the wish of our school communities to show sensitivity to the feelings of victims of abuse. At the same time, I believe it is important to present history as fairly as possible. This means recording the good as well as the bad.
“A plaque for the opening of a school building records an occasion when the bishop came to say a prayer and celebrate with the local community to mark the opening of the school. This was a good thing the bishop did.
“The bishop’s failings have been frequently recorded elsewhere. In my view, the record of something good he did also deserves to be kept intact, namely his visit to celebrate with a local community the opening of their school.”
Mr Collins said Bishop Bird’s comments were insensitive to survivors.
“The mere fact that survivors are saying ‘this distresses me’ should be enough for him to say ‘you know what, we will do everything we can because of what the church has done to you, to try and make up for it’,” he said.
“For him to say that he won’t remove or alter those plaques, it’s just a slap in the face to survivors and it really does make us worried. If he’s coming out as the Bishop of the Ballarat Diocese and he is saying this now while the Royal Commission is still going, what is the church going to be like after the Royal Commission is over?”
Mr Collins called on Bishop Bird to stand down.
“With everything that he has seen and heard at the Royal Commission hearings, he either doesn’t get it or he just doesn’t want to get it,” Mr Collins said.
“If he won’t stand down, I would call upon the Vatican to remove him, because it really is just so insensitive, in one of the dioceses that is one of the worst in the world in the numbers of victims, this man is not the right man to have here.”
Mr Collins said there had been “absolute outrage” at Bishop Bird’s comments on the Ballarat So Sad Facebook page, which supports survivors of clergy and institutionalised childhood sexual abuse across Australia and worldwide.
“Every survivor I have spoken to about this is exactly the same,” he said.
“They are outraged and there is absolute disgust that this man would come out and say this.”
THE Catholic Bishop of Ballarat has refuted calls to remove plaques which include the name of disgraced bishop Ronald Mulkearns.
Bishop Paul Bird made the comment prior to a visit to Warrnambool on Sunday.
He said it was important to accurately record historical events where the community had gathered to celebrate with Bishop Mulkearns.
The bishop said other events, including Bishop Mulkearns’ failings, had been recorded elsewhere. Bishop Bird said he thought it was going too far. Bishop Mulkearns, who died last year, was the bishop of the Ballarat Diocese while pedophile members of the clergy abused children.
He was aware of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale’s offending in 1975 but chose to move him to parishes within the diocese, allowing the notorious offender to keep committing crimes.
Churches and schools within the diocese have been discussing removing historical plaques out of respect for the hundreds of victims.
St Colman’s in Mortlake and Warrnambool’s St Joseph’s primary schools have decided to remove the plaques or remove Bishop Mulkearn’s name from the plaques. Bishop Bird said each school or church council had to make its own decision. He called for those making such decisions to also recognise the good work done by Bishop Mulkearns.
The Royal Commission into sexual abuse heard that almost 10 per cent of clergy members of the Ballarat diocese had committed sexual offences.
The late Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who ‘regretted’ his handling of abuse cases, left his fortune to the Diocese of Ballarat
The multi-million dollar estate of Ronald Mulkearns, the former bishop of in Ballarat in Australia, will be used to help abuse survivors, the Diocese of Ballarat has said.
Bishop Mulkearns left his entire estate – valued at $2m (£1.1m) – to Bishop Paul Bird to be used “at his absolute discretion”, according to local press.
Bishop Mulkearns, who died of cancer in April, was accused of covering up incidents of child abuse in Victoria and allowing priests accused of paedophilia to move freely between dioceses in the Australian state. There have been more than 100 claims of child abuse within the diocese since 1980.
In February, the retired bishop told a royal commission investigating child abuse that he “regretted” that he didn’t “deal differently with paedophilia.”
“We had no idea, or I had no idea, of the effects of the incidents that took place,” he said.
Australian Associated Press reported that Bishop Paul Bird, the current Bishop of Ballarat, said in a statement that the inheritance would be used to help abuse survivors.
The statement said: “Whatever the diocese of Ballarat receives from Bishop Mulkearns’ estate, I intend to set aside for assistance to victims of abuse.”
Abuse victims to benefit from estate of former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns
ABC News Australia
Real estate and cash left to the Catholic Church by a bishop blamed for the sexual abuse of hundreds of children in Ballarat, north-west of Melbourne, will be given to victims of abuse.
Ronald Mulkearns left nearly all of his estate, including a Fairhaven property valued at more than $2 million, to the Catholic diocese of Ballarat after his death his April.
He was accused of not properly handling complaints about abuse in his diocese, which he apologised for while testifying before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In testimony he said he was not sure if he knew child abuse was a crime when he was in charge of the Ballarat diocese but he knew it was wrong.
In a statement, current bishop Paul Bird said he intended to set the money aside to help abuse victims.
“Whatever the diocese of Ballarat receives from Bishop Mulkearn’s estate, I intend to set aside for the assistance to victims of abuse,” he said.
“This will continue the support that the diocese has given to abuse victims over many years.”
One of the victims, Andrew Collins, said he was surprised to learn Bishop Mulkearns left most of his assets to the church.
“The fact it is left to the church is an opportunity for the church to look at that figure and do something meaningful with it,” he said.
Mr Collins said the money should be used to help victims and their families.
“I think that as Mulkearns essentially facilitated the abuse of victims by moving perpetrators around,” he said.
“I’d like to see that money used to help victims and their families, especially those who have taken their own lives.”