Former south-west bishop stripped of honour

Former Ballarat Catholic bishop Ronald Mulkearns.
Former Ballarat Catholic bishop Ronald Mulkearns.

THE bishop who led the south-west's Catholics for 25 years has been stripped of a major honour originally bestowed by his church.

Ballarat's Australian Catholic University campus has renamed its theatre, replacing the honour formerly awarded to past diocese leader Ronald Mulkearns.

The university has renamed its lecture hall as the Sister of Mercy Theatre after Mulkearns was found to be grossly negligent in dealing with paedophile priests working in south west Victoria.

Mulkearns served as Catholic bishop of the Ballarat diocese- which covers the entire south west - from 1971 to 1997 and is recognised on a number of church plaques across the region.

Sexual abuse survivors spokesman Andrew Collins said the name change had been something the community had been requesting for quite some time. 

"It is a good move to change the name, it is very important for survivors," he said.

"It is a very positive move." 

Mr Collins said there was a lot of discussion about a year ago concerning the potential name change, however, admitted it was disappointing it took so long to happen. 

He said Bishop Mulkearns was in charge of the diocese in the 1970s when more than 107 substantiated cases of abuse occurred.

Speaking at the 2013 state inquiry, Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird said Mulkearns had made "tragic mistakes" in his handling of sexual abuse cases, including moving priests around the diocese. 

Mulkearns, who now lives in the Geelong region, was excused from giving evidence at the inquiry due to suffering a stroke, although some MPs criticised him for his non-attendance.

The Catholic Church has not indicated whether church plaques or other memorabilia recognising Mulkearns will be removed from south west churches.


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