Ridsdale still protecting his ‘mates’?
The judge presiding over an inquiry into child sexual abuse says it is "incredible" that notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale cannot remember crucial details surrounding the Catholic Church's knowledge of his offending against numerous children in regional Victoria.Ridsdale, an 81-year-old former priest, is back in the witness box for a second day of hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat. He told the commission he could not remember many details about his past, including his time in New South Wales.At one stage, Justice Peter McClellan expressed incredulity Ridsdale could not remember details of his offending, or which members of the Catholic clergy may have known about his abusive nature. "Isn't it incredible?" Justice McClellan put to Ridsdale, after Ridsdale said he couldn't "remember anything about Mortlake" in western Victoria, where he abused many children. Justice McClellan also expressed frustration about Ridsdale's inability to recall discussions with Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who moved Ridsdale around Western Victoria. At one point, Ridsdale also appeared to backtrack on whether he was in fear of losing his priesthood. "It's not a case of thinking you could've been," Justice McClellan told Ridsdale. "You would've been absolutely terrified the Bishop was going to throw you out of the church."Ridsdale replied: "I can only tell you what I remember."
Justice McClellan also raised the possibility Ridsdale may have been coached in what to say in evidence, asking him repeatedly who had visited him in prison in recent months, including on the March 17. "You appreciate there'll be a record of people who've been to see you in jail, don't you?" Justice McClellan put to Ridsdale. Ridsdale said he made regular phone calls to his sisters and had been visited by Father John McKinnon, of a western Victorian parish. He also backtracked on evidence that it was his barrister who approached Cardinal George Pell to support him in court during the 1990s. Yesterday, Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell may not have known the nature of the child abuse charges against him, he did not know exactly what Cardinal Pell was going to say in his support, and that it was insignificant anyway. He told the royal commission he barely knew Cardinal Pell. But today he acknowledged, on the face of evidence put to him by counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC, that he had approached Pell himself. "It looks like I must've done that, yes," said Ridsdale. Earlier, Ridsdale responded with, "I don't know ... I can't recall", when asked by Ms Furness if Cardinal Pell ever spoke to Ridsdale about his offending, or whether Ridsdale ever told him about his problems with children. Ridsdale also acknowledged at least three members of the clergy, including Bishop Mulkearns, knew of his prolific offending at Mortlake. He was also been asked about evidence given by a young female victim of Ridsdale's at St Alipius Primary School in the 1970s. Ridsdale accepted the girl's evidence, that another priest walked in on them while Ridsdale was assaulting her. But he refused to say who it was - "Miss, I have no idea about the priests who were with me in Ballarat East." Ridsdale did say he could recall Cardinal Pell was at the parish at the time. "I have to accept that fact that George Pell was there but I don't remember any of the others," he said. Ridsdale was also asked about his offending in New South Wales, after he was moved there from Victoria because he had "certain sexual problems". He told the commission he abused children at several locations, including in his "underground house" at White Cliffs. The inquiry heard one family who had been visiting Ridsdale for decades in prison did not know he had abused their own son.Today 29th claims were made that there were more than 12 paedophile priests in Ballarat. The Bishop of Ballarat rejected that.