Sins of Omission: the Testimony of Gerald Ridsdale

By Jane Lee
The Age
May 28, 2015

Paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale can't remember who else was in the room when he abused a child.

In his blind loyalty to those who have washed their hands of him, Gerald Ridsdale has betrayed those he has already failed.

Who was the priest in the room when he raped a child in his office?

Father Gerald Ridsdale, seen here in 1993, attributes his misdeeds to a personal history of loneliness and inability to relate to other adults. Photo: Geoff Ampt

He would not, or could not, say. For almost two days, he said he could not remember George Pell living with him. Now he said he could only remember McMahon.

Expectations were probably too high. He is an elderly man in jail. He has admitted to more than 100 crimes against children, which have been aired at three court cases, one state inquiry and half a royal commission. What more, one might think, does he have to lose?

Two things: a few years of freedom if he is released on parole in 2019, and any remaining ties he has left with senior church authorities.

The commission already knows that the church authorities decided Ridsdale should move on to other parishes, where he then abused others. All that was left was to find out who he told, what he said, and how they reached these decisions.

"I don't know," "I can't remember," "I can't give you what I don't have," played on loop for two days.

By contrast, he did not shy away from even the most unsettling aspects of his sexual deviance. He said he always felt uncomfortable around adults because, unlike children, he could not control them.

In prison, it appears he has learned that the only thing still in his control are the words that come out of his mouth.

If Ridsdale is to be believed, few, if any, senior priests and bishops knew of his offending. No one actively protected him. Yet dozens of letters and interview extracts show the truth is the opposite.

Senior church authorities, including former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, were willing to keep Ridsdale a priest, and move him around to different parishes. Intensive help for his sexual problems came decades after the church received its first complaint about him.

Yet they were willing to throw Ridsdale under the bus once it became apparent charges could be laid. Ridsdale was advised he should no longer work as a priest not to protect children and himself from hurting them, but to avoid the risk of negative publicity.

In return, under intense questioning and in light of overwhelming evidence, Ridsdale reluctantly accepted that the Bishop and a handful of others must have known at one stage or another of his sexual difficulties.

This is a man who can count on one hand the number of adult friends he has left in the world. The only intimacy he has ever craved has had to be forced.

Ridsdale stays true to the church and its most senior members because it's all he knows to keep what's left of him intact.








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