Australian Mining Town Breaks Its Silence About Grim Past of Sexual Abuse


APRIL 29, 2018

BALLARAT, Australia — Rob Walsh was outside Melbourne Magistrates’ Court recently awaiting a pretrial hearing for Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking official, when, he said, he unexpectedly walked into the cardinal himself.

The encounter wasn’t their first. They both were raised in the same old mining town, which could be why the cardinal extended his hand, inviting Mr. Walsh to shake it. Mr. Walsh declined — a gesture that signified the lasting impact of a decades-long sexual abuse scandal that has rocked this town, Ballarat, and sent shock waves around the world.

“The ripple is still on the lake and it’s still occurring,” Mr. Walsh said from his home in Ballarat, referring to the lingering effects from that scandal, in which priests preyed on children, including Mr. Walsh, during the 1960s and 1970s.

“It’s gone through families and generations.”

This town, officially a city of about 100,000 people, was once the center of Australia’s gold rush, but is now better known as the epicenter of that pedophile ring, in which Catholic clergy preyed on those who depended on them the most — children from Ballarat’s poor, blue-collar neighborhoods.

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