Father Ronald Mulkearns Refuses to Front Royal Commission...

By Andrea Hamblin
Herald Sun
June 6, 2015

THE bishop who was in charge at Ballarat when some of Australia’s worst paedophiles preyed on young children has no plans to help a royal commission uncover the truth about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

Father Ronald Mulkearns was bishop while children suffered at the evil whims of Fr Gerald Ridsdale, Fr Paul Ryan and Brothers Robert Best and Edward Dowlan.

A Victorian inquiry has previously heard Fr Mulkearns could not give evidence to it because he was too ill and suffered memory loss due to a stroke.

But he may yet be called to face the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In a statement to the Herald Sun on Friday, the commission said: “Whether Bishop Mulkearns is able to give evidence to the royal commission has not yet been determined.”

In Aireys Inlet on Friday, where he maintains a peaceful retirement in his seaside home with million-dollar views of the Great Ocean Rd, Fr Mulkearns would not comment on his condition.

The only evidence of ill-health was a packet of throat lozenges he bought from a pharmacy.

The 84-year-old appears capable; he lives independently and drives daily.

During lone walks to buy a paper and milk, he smiles and occasionally chats to passers-by.

Earlier this year, he travelled to Sydney for a celebration dinner organised by the church.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the inquiry began, Fr Mulkearns told the Herald Sun he sympathised with victims — but he would not attend the inquiry.

“I have heard the accounts of those who have suffered abuse and I recognise the pain and suffering experienced by them and their families,” he said.

“I support the royal commission.”

But asked if he would attend the hearings, he said: “No.”

His refusal to answer questions has angered victims and their advocates.

Some locals also want to know why he won’t come forward.

“Hiding only makes him look guilty,” one woman said.

Another local who knows Fr Mulkearns said the excuse of poor health was troubling.

“It turns my stomach,” the local said.

“I doubt he’s too ill to attend the royal commission.”

Fr Mulkearns has the option of providing a statement to the commission, but refused to say whether he planned to do so.

Asked if he felt a responsibility to help victims, he said: “I’m feeling all sorts of things at the moment.”

Declining to be interviewed further, he said he did not want to “interfere” with the commission’s “important work”.

Victims’ group Broken Rites said Fr Mulkearns had the power to prevent suffering at the hands of priests.

“Victims have been waiting 20 years and more to hear the truth about what was known about Ridsdale’s offending,” a spokeswoman said.

“Many children could have been saved from vile criminal acts if the church reported Ridsdale and others to the police.”

Fr Mulkearns was in charge when accused priests were moved to other parishes.

In 1971, he refused to move paedophile Monsignor John Day when Day was first accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse against boys and girls across Victoria.

Charges had been dropped, but a deputy headmaster wrote to the bishop urging him to remove Day from parishes.

The bishop replied: “Any such move would be tantamount to a public declaration that I consider him guilty.”

Day had been subjected to “very great embarrassment”, the bishop wrote.

He was also accused of destroying church documents from his time at Ballarat.

According to minutes shown to the inquiry last month, Fr Mulkearns moved Ridsdale to another parish.









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