SEX Abuser Set Traps to Lure Children

9 News
May 26, 2015

A fellow priest admired Father Gerald Ridsdale's work with youth so much he hoped to emulate him, before realising it was all a ruse to trap and molest children.

Father Adrian McInerney maintains he did not know Ridsdale was sexually abusing children when he and now Cardinal George Pell supported the priest at his first court appearance in 1993.

"Up until then I have to confess that in certain areas I had some admiration for him because of his ability," Fr McInerney told the child abuse royal commission in Ballarat.

"He had abilities in adult education and I even - this does sound preposterous - but I even had admiration for what he did for youth."

Fr McInerney recalled seeing Ridsdale had a small billiard table and a TV screen for playing games in his lounge room.

"He said `oh, it's for the young people of the parish', and I thought what a good idea, why don't I do something like that."

Fr McInerney agreed the set-up was actually a trap to lure children so he could molest them.

"But at the time I thought what a good idea to engage young people in that way. When I looked at the charges at the trial I looked back and, well, I was horrified that that's what they were there for."

Fr McInerney said Ridsdale told him it was a minor court matter. Neither Ridsdale nor his lawyer told him it was sex offences, and he didn't ask.

Fr McInerney could not explain why he still provided a character reference for Ridsdale despite being shocked when the indecent assault charges against eight boys were read out.

His character reference included noting that when Ridsdale went to a parish, he sought out families in need, which he later realised was part of Ridsdale's ploy.

"So, when I stated what I thought was a virtue in him, as I reflected, it became clear it was in fact part of his modus operandi, if you like," he said on Tuesday.

Despite sitting in on meetings in the 1970s when Ridsdale's many parish moves were discussed, Fr McInerney maintained "nothing had registered with me" about Australia's worst pedophile priest abusing children.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan suggested Fr McInerney's evidence about his lack of knowledge and his shock at hearing the charges in court "may not be correct".

"I'm sorry, that's absolutely correct, the shock," Fr McInerney replied.

Fr McInerney said then Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns had to take "some responsibility" for Ridsdale offending under his watch.

He agreed the culture of the church contributed to a number of pedophile priests operating in the Ballarat diocese, saying it was not sufficiently vigilant and prepared to listen.

Fr McInerney said Ridsdale took advantage of his naivety and tricked him into speaking on his behalf.

In a statement he said he has not spoken to Ridsdale since that day and apologised to the victims.

Cardinal Pell has admitted it was a mistake to show "priestly solidarity" with Ridsdale at court in 1993, as he did not know the extent of his crimes.

Fr McInerney, the St Alipius parish priest in Ballarat East, said he would go against the church's teachings and tell police if he ever heard a confession of a crime.

Ridsdale gives evidence on Wednesday.








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