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 yesterday.
“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 was “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.
Defence barrister Helen Spowart said there was no argument in mitigation of the crimes.
“It’s difficult to imagine more serious sex offences than this,” Ms Spowart said.
She said Ridsdale’s guilty plea had saved the victims giving evidence in court. Ridsdale suffers from serious health problems and is resigned to dying in jail, Ms Spowart said.
Prosecutor Susan Borg said Ridsdale’s abuse had destroyed lives and multiple generations of families.
“His betrayal was not only against the children themselves but against the adults who so readily handed the children on to him,” she said.
She said he was a sexual predator who groomed his victims by calling them angels then abused them when they were alone.
Ridsdale is already serving a long jail sentence for multiple child sex offences. He will be sentenced at a later date.