Victim of sex abuse says district plaques containing Bishop Mulkearn​s' name should be taken down

CALL: A victim ​of clergy sex abuse ​wants ​plaques featuring Bishop Ronald Mulkearns removed from Warrnambool schools. One of the plaques has already been removed at St Pius X Primary School (bottom).

CALL: A victim ​of clergy sex abuse ​wants ​plaques featuring Bishop Ronald Mulkearns removed from Warrnambool schools. One of the plaques has already been removed at St Pius X Primary School (bottom).

A SOUTH-WEST victim ​of clergy sex abuse wants ​plaques featuring Bishop Ronald Mulkearns removed from Warrnambool schools.

The man, who recently made a statement to police and gave evidence at the Royal Commission, is still a practising Catholic.

He said it was a disgrace the plaques, that recognise Bishop Mulkearns had opened buildings in the region, remained on display. 

Those plaques are understood to be at St Joseph’s, Our Lady Help Of Christians and St Pius X primary schools in Warrnambool. One has already been removed from St Pius X primary.

​The​ victim said the child sex abuse Royal Commission released statistics last week that revealed almost 4500 victims of sexual abuse had come forward to report abuse.

​The inquiry was told almost one in ​10 priests in the Ballarat diocese had allegations of child sexual abuse levelled against them between 1950 and 2010. 

​"Bishop Mulkearns was the Bishop of the Ballarat diocese while this reign of terror went on. He said he simply didn't know how to handle it," the victim said.

"Members of the clergy were moved around the diocese and offending happened in towns across the south-west.

"To recognise Bishop Mulkearns in any way is just wrong. I see one of those plaques and it just makes me cringe.”

​When asked about the possibility of removing the plaques, Warrnambool St Joseph's parish priest Father John Fitzgerald was more focused on the healing process.

He said the most important thing was to acknowledge the psychological, spiritual and physical damage that clergy abuse had caused. 

"For healing to take place, we must offer pastoral care – even to hear the anger of victims. To me, the hearing – and victim to know they have been believed … these are the most important things," he said. 

"As part of the healing I understand how people would like to erase the name of Bishop Ronald Mulkearns on plaques."

Father Fitzgerald said a Ballarat Catholic university theatre named in Bishop Mulkearns’ honour had his name removed. 

"Church community is really disgusted and shocked by the immensity of what has taken place. It will take years, if we ever can, to overcome this," he said.

"Survivors of abuse must be shown compassion and justice​. The degree we show that is the degree ​to which ​healing will take place​.

​"​The victims have to be taken care of​. We have worked hard over the past few years in ​relation to ​child safety​ and protocols​. It's important ​for not only ​primary victims, ​but their ​parents and families​.”

​Data gathered by the Royal​ ​Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 has found 4444 people have come forward with alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in relation to 93 Catholic church authorities. 

Ballarat was found to have 8.7 per cent of alleged perpetrators and was ranked seventh worst in Australia​ with the Sale diocese​ the worst in Australia.

Some of Australia's most notorious abusers were part of a pedophile ring operating in Ballarat for decades. 

In 1971, all male teachers and the chaplain at the St Alipius ​​Christian Brothers Boys’ School were molesting children. 

It is feared some of the worst offenders committed hundreds of crimes.

The head of the Ballarat diocese’s professional standards lawyer, Michael Myers, said the diocese had taken “significant steps” to protect children, including the roll-out of a safeguarding officer in every parish in western Victoria. 

Mandatory reporting of suspected sexual abuse of child is also stipulated in the Ballarat diocese's code of conduct. 

"The church in Ballarat is a vastly different place than it was during the dark days of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s," Mr Myers said. 

"Every parish is to have a safeguarding policy, a code of conduct about protecting children, and they must adhere to the state government's child-safe standards. 

"We know that in the past, concerns weren't acted on – and this was one cause of the disaster and tragedy that was child sex abuse in our diocese.”

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