Retired Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who appeared at child sex abuse inquiry, dies

ABC News
April 4, 2016

Bishop Mulkearns oversaw the Ballarat diocese for 26 years.

Retired Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the Ballarat diocese during a notorious period of sexual abuse by clergy, has left a "catastrophic legacy", an abuse survivor has said.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne announced Bishop Mulkearns' death from cancer at age 85 on Monday.

Bishop Mulkearns, who retired in 1997, was to be requestioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse after Cardinal George Pell said he was not briefed properly about abuse in Ballarat.

The retired bishop told a commission hearing in March he was not sure if he knew child abuse was a crime during his time in charge of the Ballarat diocese, but he knew it was wrong.

The commission heard Bishop Mulkearns received numerous complaints about paedophile priests over three decades but they were never referred to police.

He instead moved the priests around western Victoria where they continued to offend, the commission heard.

"His legacy is utterly catastrophic, not only the sheer numbers who were abused, but the sheer number of people who have died, who have sadly taken their own lives," abuse survivor Stephen Wood said.

"He could have made a death-bed confession of what went on and who they covered up for, but that's really sadly a missed opportunity there."

Another survivor, Phil Nagle, said the bishop was "a very evil man".

"He's as evil as the people he covered up for, so I certainly didn't shed a tear at all and I don't think many people will," he said.

"He'll be taking secrets to the grave for sure and his sins as well."

Funeral service will be 'low key', Church says

The head of the Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council said Bishop Mulkearns would be given a low-key funeral service.

"It's a very complex situation, the Catholic Church fittingly will have a very humble low-key funeral mass for him at the nursing home and then he will be buried in an ordinary grave," he said.

The retired Catholic cleric had been excused from giving evidence because he was too sick, but the royal commission decided he would front the inquiry by video link from his nursing home.

During the hearing, Bishop Mulkearns apologised for the way he handled complaints of abuse in his diocese.

He said he retired in 1997 because he did not feel he was "handling himself very well".

Mr Collins said the bishop left a devastating legacy.

"Unfortunately he won't be remembered as a great man, he will be remembered as the man who essentially covered up and facilitated the abuses of children in the Ballarat diocese."

The ABC has contacted friends of Bishop Mulkearns who declined to speak about his death out of fear of hurting more victims.


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