Catholic Church Asks for Copy of 1917 Canon Law in Latin

By Andrew Thomson
Inverell Times
August 1, 2019

Loud fence: Ribbons are attached to Catholic church fences in support of clergy abuse victims.

The Catholic church has demanded a clergy sex abuse victim, who was raped as a nine-year-old in a confessional box, provide a copy of the church's own rules in Latin.

A south-west victim of notorious pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale is pursuing civil damages through the Victorian Supreme Court from Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird, on behalf of the diocese.

In May, Supreme Court Justice Michael McDonald asked the church's legal team for an explanation in relation to the church denying knowledge of Ridsdale's pedophile activities with a view to determining if costs should be awarded to the victim.

That led to the church sacking its legal team and calling in the lawyers who acted for now jailed Arch Bishop George Pell.

The victim's lawyers have been asking the church hand over archive documents.

Under 1917 Canon Law which applied at the time of the offending, the church was required to keep an archive of all important documents, including sex assault allegations against clergy members, and a record of who had seen the documents and what documents had been destroyed.

It's not known what is included in Ridsdale's archive file.

But information obtained in the case of defrocked priest Paul David Ryan proved dynamite.

He was jailed again for 26 months on Monday this week after abusing schoolboys when he was in Warrnambool.

Former Warrnambool police detective Colin Ryan went to the Ballarat diocese office in 2006 while investigating the first Paul Ryan case, for which he was jailed for a minimum 12 months.

The police officer was able to obtain documents about the defrocked priest, which he copied. It showed the church had a wide range of knowledge of Ryan's offending.

Civil ligation involving Paul Ryan has been launched by a Warrnambool victim who was raped in the early 1980s.

That case, and civil litigation involving the boy raped in the confessional box, are expected to be precedent-setting legal cases, with the previous highest out-of-court settlement about $1 million.

The confessional box rape victim said today the church made a number of commitments after the Royal Commission into institutional abuse, about cooperating and reducing the trauma of victims.

"Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird is on record as saying that the church is now victim-focused, but their actions are a direct contradiction of commitments made through the church's own True, Justice and Healing Council in response to the Royal Commission," he said.

The church claims it only knew about Ridsdale's offending due to a police officer from Inglewood going to see Bishop Ronald Mulkearns in 1975.

The Standard published a story entitled 'Bishop Knew' in the mid 1990s in which the police officer recalled going to see the bishop to complain about Ridsdale's sexual offending.

The meeting was recorded in the detective's diary and is seen as a benchmark for the church knowing about Ridsdale's offending.

But there have been many claims over the years that Bishop Mulkearns knew of Ridsdale's and other pedophile priests' activities.

Bishop Mulkearns moved Ridsdale from parish to parish across the Western District.

The victim said the request for the Latin version of the law had stunned him.

"For the church to ask me to provide a copy of their 1917 Canon Law was bad enough, but we offered to give it to them even though you can buy it on the internet," he said.

"For the church to then turn around and demand the original Latin version was simply beyond belief. It's their own laws. They've now dropped that demand.

"What's next - do they want us to send them a copy of The Bible."

The victim said he wanted a precedent.

"It's about seeing justice for all those victims who are no longer with us because they took their own lives," he said.

"I see reminders of those people every week because there were so many victims from home."

The next hearing in the victim's case is scheduled for August 23 when his legal team is expected to apply for an expedited trial date due to the stress of the ongoing action.

"My life has been in limbo for almost 18 months and now we don't even have a trial date," he said.

Ridsdale, 84, is still alive, serving jail sentences.

He has been in prison since 1994, and was due for parole this year, but was jailed again in April 2014 for another eight years after pleading guilty to 30 charges involving sex offences against 11 boys and three girls.

It's expected he will die in jail.

Bishop Bird declined to comment, saying the matter was related to an ongoing court proceeding.








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