Priest admits giving character reference for paedophile Gerald Ridsdale was 'preposterous'

By Peta Carlyon
Radio Australia
May 26, 2015

Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale was jailed on paedophile charges in 1994.

Giving prolific paedophile Gerald Ridsdale a character reference in court without asking what the nature of the charges were was "preposterous", the parish priest of St Alipius in Ballarat tells a royal commission hearing.

Giving prolific paedophile Gerald Ridsdale a character reference in court without asking what the nature of the charges were was "preposterous", the parish priest of St Alipius in Ballarat has agreed at a royal commission hearing.

Ridsdale is in prison for extensive sex crimes against young boys.

Father Adrian McInerney is giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat.

He told the commission he agreed to accompany Ridsdale to court after charges were laid, because Ridsdale told him it was in relation to "a minor matter".

"I know how it looks ... but I did not know," Father McInerney said.

"But when you realised the horrendous crimes he'd been charged with, why didn't you just turn around and walk away?" senior counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, asked.

"I don't know," Father McInerney replied.

"If someone could explain that to me now, I'd be a happier man."

Cardinal George Pell was also photographed supporting Ridsdale at court.

Father McInerney said he "had some admiration" for Ridsdale before he found out about the nature of his then alleged crimes.

But he said he could now see Ridsdale's offers of help to children "were a trap for young people to come over so he could molest them".

"I was horrified," he said.

Father McInerney 'not responsible' for moving priests

Father McInerney told the royal commission he could not recall being a consultant to Father Ronald Mulkearns, the man accused of moving Ridsdale around western Victoria.

He later clarified he was in fact on the consultative committee responsible for placing priests, after a list of names was read out in court that included his own.

But he told the royal commission he was secretary and only responsible for taking the minutes of meetings.

"No, no, that was strictly not my role," Father McInerney said of priest placements.

Father Mulkearns is not appearing as a witness at the royal commission.


Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan suggested it was hard to believe Father McInerney would not remember being in such an important position.

Father McInerney said in relation to Ridsdale and Father Mulkearns's committee, he was only privy to the outcome of the meetings, not the discussion about Ridsdale's offending.

"It was more just to record the outcomes," he said.

But he agreed with Ms Furness, that "given what we know now about his life, it may well have been about the sexual abuse issue".

Earlier, Father McInerney said he could not recall complaints about other offending clergy, or the details of when they were charged.

He said in one case, he could not remember the decade when allegations first surfaced about one offender, but acknowledged members of the clergy would gossip among themselves.

He also told the royal commission that he conducted occasional confessions, but no-one had ever confessed to a crime.

"I've had people confess to me in terms of adultery, but never anyone confess to abuse of minors ... ever," he said.

Father McInerney said although it was not in line with the church's teachings, he would "feel obliged" to report crimes to police, and was "coming to the view that to not report is concealment of offenders".

He said he was aware of cases in which fellow priests had crimes confessed to them, but had not reported the confessions to authorities.

The hearing continues.


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