Cardinal George Pell helped shift paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale between parishes, royal commission hears

By Shannon Deery
Herald Sun
May 19, 2015

Cardinal George Pell appears via video link from the Vatican in the Commission into child abuse.

Cardinal George Pell attends 'The Voice of the Family meeting' in Rome a few weeks ago.
Photo by Gregorio Borgia

Cardinal George Pell in the Vatican City last October.
Photo by Franco Origlia

SECRET church documents tendered to a royal commission reveal that Cardinal ­George Pell helped move Australia’s worst paedophile priest between parishes.

The revelation at the inquiry into child sexual abuse has sparked calls for the former Archbishop of Melbourne to return from The Vatican — where he now oversees the Catholic Church’s finances — to explain his involvement in the handling of vile pervert Gerald Francis Ridsdale.

The shamed priest has spent decades behind bars and has admitted molesting at least 54 children across Victoria.

But the total is thought to be more than 200, as he was routinely moved ­between parishes despite a string of complaints against him.

Cardinal Pell has persistently denied knowing the ­extent of Ridsdale’s offending.

Minutes of a September 1982 meeting of the Diocesan Consultors Committee — tendered to the commission sitting in Ballarat yesterday — reveal the then Fr Pell was one of seven church leaders who discussed relocating Ridsdale from a Ballarat parish.

Counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, SC, said Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns was also at the meeting and had been told of allegations of Ridsdale’s crimes.

She said the bishop did not think it was his job to tell police, instead moving Ridsdale between nine Victorian parishes and churches.

The minutes noted Bishop Mulkearns advising it was “necessary” for Ridsdale to be moved from the parish of Mortlake.

“The minutes do not disclose what the Bishop said about why it became necessary,” Ms Furness said.

“However ... it is expected that there will be evidence that Bishop Mulkearns knew it was because Ridsdale had abused boys in Mortlake, and that he had offended in 1975.”

The commission heard Ridsdale spent more than 20 years being shuffled around Victoria and interstate — and offended everywhere he went.

Ridsdale’s replacement in Ballarat, Fr Denis Denehy, later told church investigators he believed every boy at the St Alipius Boys’ School had been molested by Ridsdale.

He worked there as assistant priest and chaplain, alongside convicted paedophiles Edward Dowlan, Robert Best and Stephen Farrell.

Ridsdale was later moved to a Catholic centre in Sydney, the bishop telling its director he had to be moved for “sexual matters” and Ridsdale had a problem with “little boys”.

Bishop Mulkearns will not give evidence, having being found medically unfit to do so at an earlier inquiry.

A string of victims have launched legal ­actions against him.

Cardinal Pell has persistently denied knowing the extent of Ridsdale’s offending or his involvement in any sex abuse cover-up.

There has been no evidence that he knew of Ridsdale’s offending.



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