Gerald Ridsdale tells sex abuse Royal Commission that he did share meals with George Pell

By Rania Spooner
May 28, 2015

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

[with video]

Paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale has conceded he shared meals with George Pell and chatted with him when the pair lived together in the '70s, but denied telling the prominent Catholic leader that he was abusing children.

The admission comes after he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday, which was holding hearings in Ballarat, that he could not remember living with Cardinal Pell at all.

Records show they lived together for about a year.

The commission has also heard that Cardinal Pell was present at a September 1982 meeting involving three other senior clerics – including then-Bishop Ronald Mulkearns - who had all received complaints about Ridsdale's behaviour towards children.

At the meeting there was a discussion about removing Ridsdale from the Victorian town of Mortlake – where he has since admitted abusing more than 50 children – and moving him to Sydney.

Ridsdale accepted the reason that he was moved was to get him away from Victorian parishes and limit his access to children.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Ridsdale's offending and yesterday reiterated his intention to fully co-operate with the investigation, which includes allegations of a church cover-up.

Following the September 1982 meeting, Ridsdale was moved to the Catholic Inquiry Centre in Sydney, where he was able to join a prayer group and abuse another boy.

Ridsdale said although he had lived with Cardinal Pell at the St Alipius presbytery in Ballarat, he had not told Cardinal Pell about his offending.  "No, I don't think so," he said.

Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell was never his confessor but accepted that they would have shared meals together and chatted while living at the presbytery. "Yes, that would have been normal," he said.

The Commission's chair, Justice Peter McClellan, asked Ridsdale about whether there was no doubt that then-Bishop Mulkearns was aware of his criminal activity after he was removed from the Mortlake parish, to which he responded: "Yes your honour, yes."

It is the second day of Ridsdale's evidence to the Ballarat hearing, where the 81-year-old has been appearing by videolink from Ararat Prison.

He is serving multiple sentences for child sex abuse and won't be eligible for parole until April 2019.

Ridsdale spent much of priesthood being shuffled between parishes in Victoria's western region.

A key focus of the commission is how he was able to continue harming children for more than three decades, despite senior church figures allegedly being aware of his offending as early as the year he was ordained in 1961.

He has been convicted of more than 150 offences against children - the youngest of whom was four years old – between the early 1960s to the late 1980s, but the commission has heard his offending began in the 1950s, before he was an ordained priest.


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