Ronald Mulkearns, Bishop of Ballarat during time of sexual abuse by clergy, buried in common grave
By Charlotte King
April 11, 2016
|About 30 people attended the funeral service in Ballarat.
||Ronald Mulkearns gave evidence at the Royal Commission via video link in February.
The Catholic bishop who presided over the Ballarat diocese during some of its worst years of child sexual abuse by priests has been laid to rest.
Retired Bishop Ronald Mulkearns spent 26 years heading up the Ballarat diocese between 1971 and 1997, but his funeral went almost unnoticed.
Around 30 friends and family attended the small service at the chapel adjoining his Ballarat nursing home, Nazareth House.
The bishop died last week from cancer at the age of 85.
The clergy presence was purposefully minimal but Father John McKinnon, a close friend of the retired Bishop, emerged shortly after the service.
Current Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird and the Vicar General, Reverend Justin Driscoll, also attended on behalf of the diocese.
But Stawell priest Father Eric Bryant said other clergy were instructed not to attend.
"It's sad the clergy can't get with their ex-bishop, whom they worked with for 26 years and farewell him at his death," he said.
"The clergy were his close friends, but it looks like we've been put on the outer."
Church 'could not give Mulkearns a big funeral'
Bishop Mulkearns, who retired in 1997, oversaw the Ballarat diocese during the time when notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale and other clergy regularly abused children.
A former ward of the state and abuse survivor from the former Nazareth House girls home, Gabrielle Short, said the diocese had to keep the event modest.
"They had no choice, because if they were to bury him with honours and give him a big funeral, what would that say to all the victims?" she said.
"Look at the suicides [in the Ballarat area]."
Outside the gates, one woman who did not want to be named watched on quietly.
She said she had known the Bishop for over 30 years and she came to get some closure.
Death brings 'no closure' to abuse survivors
After the service, the retired Bishop's coffin was loaded onto a hearse and driven to the Ballarat cemetery.
He will be the first Bishop in Ballarat's history to buried in a simple grave, in place of the cathedral crypt.
Reverend Driscoll said Bishop Mulkearns' absence from the cathedral tomb would be a "permanent and painful reminder" of a dark chapter in Ballarat's history.
The decision was welcomed by abuse victims, but Ms Short said the former Bishop's death did not bring closure.
"I'm happy with what they've done, but it's definitely not the end of it," she said.
"I won't be resting until the day I die, because so far, not many of them have come to justice, have they?
"If we don't make examples now, well, what have we learnt?"
Bishop Mulkearns was due to continue giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse after appearing in February.
The inquiry will hold a directions hearing on Wednesday to decide what course of action to take in the wake of his death.