PAEDOPHILE priest Gerald Ridsdale said if former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns had gone to the police rather than try and rehabilitate him with counselling, his offending would have stopped because he would have been in prison.
Giving evidence for a second day at the child sex abuse royal commission in Ballarat, Australia’s worst paedophile priest said he was now sorry he wasn’t reported to police and believes he should never have been ordained.
Ridsdale also appeared to back track on evidence given on Wednesday, conceding he may have approached Cardinal George Pell to give character evidence at his 1993 court appearance.
He had previously said he believed that was arranged through his legal team.
It was also revealed yesterday Cardinal Pell was on a committee of parish consulters that met in 1982 where Bishop Mulkearns said it had become “necessary to remove” Ridsdale from his post as parish priest at Mortlake’s St Colman’s Church.
Minutes from the meeting were tendered as evidence, listing Pell as being present.
Another priest at the meeting, Father Eric Bryant, alleged in yesterday’s Herald Sun that explicit details of Ridsdale’s crimes in Mortlake were discussed and plans to move Ridsdale to the Catholic Inquiries Centre in Sydney were also brought up.
Father Bryant’s secretary said the Stawell parish priest would not be taking calls yesterday and directed all inquiries to the diocese office.
Cardinal Pell has denied any knowledge of Ridsdale’s crimes until 1993. He has previously said in a statement Bishop Mulkearns did not raise allegations and he never moved Ridsdale from Mortlake or anywhere else.
“I never would have condoned or participated in a decision to transfer Ridsdale in the knowledge he had abused children, and I did not do so,” the statement says.
Ridsdale again said he couldn’t remember anything about his time at Mortlake, which commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan said was “incredible”.
Justice McClellan asked if Ridsdale had spoken with anyone prior to or after a private hearing on March 17, or before his appearance this week.
“You appreciate there’ll be a record of people who’ve been to see you in jail, don’t you?” Justice McClellan put to Ridsdale.
Ridsdale said he made phone calls to his sister and had one visitor, retired priest John McKinnon, who lives in Hamilton.
The commission also heard treatment Ridsdale received from a Franciscan monk after his time at Mortlake “didn’t work” and he continued offending in New South Wales.
He was later sent for further specialised treatment at a sex offenders’ program in New Mexico, where two-thirds of the participants were clergy, Ridsdale said.
“The treatment I received in New Mexico (during the late 1980s and early 1990s) worked. I didn’t offend after that,” he said. There was a two-year period between his return from New Mexico and his arrest in which he didn’t offend, he said.
“I would have had the opportunity, but I’m happy to say I didn’t offend in that period.”
Lawyers for the church were granted more time to prepare their cross-examination of Ridsdale.
It’s expected he will be recalled at the next round of public hearings in Ballarat later in the year or at hearings in Sydney.