Confessional Should Not Be above the Law, Says Paedophile Priest Gerald Ridsdale

By Fiona Henderson
The Courier
May 27, 2015

Gerald Ridsdale appearing at the Royal Commission via video link from prison.

UPDATE: Lawyer and victims' advocate Judy Courtin has asked why Ridsdale doesn't just tell the truth.

"This is just twisting the knife," Ms Courtin said.

"He's 81, he'll probably die in prison what has he got to lose."

Victim David Ridsdale said his uncle appeared to be suffering from selective memory loss.

"There are more questions in my head than answers," he said.

"It's going to take a while to ever understand how I feel.

"It's a massive game whose rules I don't necessarily understand."

However he said all survivors had been overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of support from Ballarat.

Survivor Andrew Collins, who was not a victim of Ridsdale, said he was bitterly disappointed.

"We thought he might have told the truth," Mr Collins said.

"Instead he's got what we call selective Vatican memory, where he appears to be very sharp when he wants to be and with other things not so sharp.

"It's very obvious he's protecting someone."

Mr Collins said he was very cynical about some of Ridsdale's comments this morning about children.

"Nobody looking at that would have felt it was heartfelt."

EARLIER: GERALD Ridsdale told the Royal Commission on Wednesday crimes reported in confession should be reported to police.

"Well from my experience and what I've done, and the damage that I've done, I'd say yes definitely," he said.

"I don't know what the church ruling or legislation or thought is about that, but that's my personal opinion."

Ridsdale said he finally "got up the guts" to talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist during his time in Warrnambool and told them he thought he was gay.

But he said he failed to follow it up and talk about "the kids".

Ridsdale says he didn't know George Pell very well at all and Pell accompanying him to court was suggested by his barrister.

"I can't remember having any dealings with George at all."

He said he didn't see Pell coming to court with him as "having a very big significance" on his court proceedings.

An expert says Ridsdale had a pattern in each parish of having five or more children with whom he had "close and ongoing relationships" plus a couple of "casual contacts".

Ridsdale would befriend one or two families, often with an absent father, and abuse boys in the presbytery, on outings or on camps.

Ridsdale said he was forced to leave Apollo Bay early after someone told him "they are saying things down at the pub about you and kids".

"I thought it was time to put in for a transfer."

However he can't remember telling then Bishop Mulkearns why he needed an early transfer.

Ridsdale said he would have "cooked up" some excuse for needing to leave Apollo Bay early if asked.

He also said he was "out if control" when sent to Inglewood near Bendigo but was always fearful of families reporting him.

He said he made sure he was alone when he abused children and made them promise to keep quiet.

He also said he may have threatened them.

When asked if he hurt children he said "yes I did, I know that."

Ridsdale said he was molested twice as a child and "sexually tested" by an uncle while giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Ridsdale said he was assaulted by an older cousin when they shared a bed when he was eight or nine, and a Christian Brother a few years later.

He also gave evidence that priests had a great deal of community status, and he read a lot of spiritual books when he was growing up.

However he was told by an older priest friend: "Always remember when you're reading books like that, that it's not necessarily how people like that lived but that's how they would have liked to live."

Ridsdale gave evidence that, when he was becoming a priest, he was told at the Werribee Seminary he would have to stop masturbating or leave.

He also realised he was attracted to young boys, not women, and could recall a "need for intimacy, hugging and closeness" with young boys.

However he could not remember fondling them.

He also said he never had a close adult relationship apart from another prisoner when he was serving a three year jail term.

Ridsdale said he never confessed his offending to anyone because he didn't want to leave the priesthood.

He also said requests for movements around the diocese were sent via letter to the College of Consultors.

Ridsdale said the first complaint against him was in his first year as a priest in the 1960s at Ballarat North and the bishop at the time, James O'Collins, threatened to send him to "the missions".

He said, if his offending came out, he would lose face with his family, his priesthood and faith in himself.

"I was a very proud person," he said.

Ridsdale said he had never thought about whether or not he was hurting young children.

"I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking."


1934 - Born May 20, St Arnaud, Victoria

Primary school St Aloysius, Redan

Secondary school St Patrick's College, Ballarat

1954-1958 - Studied for priesthood Corpus Christi College, Werribee. Began offending.

1958-1960 - Seminary, Collegio Brignole Sale, Genoa

1960-1961 - Seminary, All Hallows College, Dublin

1961 - July 25, ordained as priest at St Patrick's Cathedral, Ballarat

- Fills in at five parishes including Horsham, Inglewood, Camperdown and Ballarat North

1962-1964 - Assistant priest at Ballarat North

- First complaint in Ridsdale's first year as priest - boy from Villa Maria boarding school in Ballarat East

1964-1966 - Assistant priest Mildura

1966-1969 - Assistant priest Swan Hill

1970-1972 - Assistant priest Warrnambool

1972-1974 - Assistant priest Ballarat East

1974-1975 - Parish priest Apollo Bay. Puts in for transfer February 1975 after man tells him in a pub there's talk about him and kids.

1975 - Parish priest Inglewood. Leaves overnight after policeman complains has interfered with his son. Sent for counselling. Convictions for abusing nine children here; another two victims have contacted royal commission.

Early 1976 - Temporarily appointed to Bungaree

1976-1979 - Administrator then parish priest Edenhope. Convicted for abusing 13 children here; another 11 victims have contacted royal commission.

1980 - Study leave, National Pastoral Institute. Offended there.

1981-1982 - Parish priest Mortlake. Prolific offender. Replacement believes Ridsdale molested every boy aged 10-16 at the school.

1982 - Starts on-and-off counselling

1982-1985 - Catholic Enquiry Centre, Sydney. Within 12 months offends against boy from parish prayer group who became his altar boy. End of 1983 centre director says "I want him out of here".

Early 1986 - Short periods as Woy Woy assistant priest and Forestville administrator, both in then Sydney archdiocese

July 1986-May 1988 - Assistant priest Horsham

(August 1987 - Written complaint about offending while in Horsham)

April 1988 - Steps down from parish work

June 1988 - Priestly faculties suspended for 12 months

November 1989-September 1990 - Residential program at Jemez Springs centre in New Mexico. A document before commission says Ridsdale admitted to police he offended in USA.

March/April 1991 - Assistant priest St John of God Hospital, Richmond, NSW (role as a chaplain)

May 1993 - Admits indecently assaulting eight children. Now Cardinal George Pell and Father Adrian McInerney accompany to court. Sentenced to two years and three months, suspended after three months.

November 1993 - Laicised

August 1994 - Admits abusing 20 boys and one girl from 1961-1981. Held in custody

October 1994 - Jailed for 18 years (15-year minimum)

August 2006 - Sentenced to 13 years (seven-year minimum); admits abusing 10 boys from 1970-1987

April 2014 - Sentenced to eight years (five-year minimum); admits abusing 11 boys, three girls from 1961-1980

April 2019 - Eligible for parole, aged 84.








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