‘When I pray for you, God comes first. When I’m with you, you are first’: Letters from vile paedophile priest to his victims reveal sick lust for boys – and how the Catholic Church did nothing to stop him
- Gerald Ridsdale was convicted of abusing 50 children over three decades
- The chilling letters give a disturbing insight into the mind of a child abuser
- He admitted his work ‘proved to be a temptation and a difficulty for me’
- ‘You’re the kid I’ve been honest with and warned off (a bit late),’ he writes
- But throughout all this the Catholic Church continued to turn a blind eye
- Documents show then Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns knew for years
Shocking letters show how Australia’s worst paedophile priest could not control his vile urges while other documents show how the Catholic Church stood back and did nothing during his reign of terror.
They were uncovered as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse inquiry that detailed Gerald Ridsdale’s sexual and physical abuse at Ballarat boys’ schools.
Ridsdale was convicted of abusing more than 50 children over three decades. Letters and documents published on the sex abuse royal commission’s website left no doubt that he was a serial abuser whose appetite for young boys was at times uncontrollable.
A Royal Commission inquiry has uncovered letters where Australia’s worst paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale could not control his urges
Documents also show that Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns (pictured) was implicit in covering up Ridsdale’s crimes
Cardinal George Pell has refused to be appear at the inquiry despite all the damning evidence
In an interview with a Catholic Church Insurance investigator on June 6, 1994, Ridsdale says he ‘went haywire’
In a letter to the then Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns on April 11 in 1988, Ridsdale steps down from parish work in Horsham. Writing that the post ‘proved to be a temptation and a difficulty for me’
A solicitor’s letter from an abuse victim named only as BAF in May 1979 describes how Ridsdale put the victim through ‘extreme psychological turmoil’
The solicitor’s letter from the abuse victim named only as BAF goes on to include segments from a letter sent to the young victim by Ridsdale where he says ‘You’re the first kid I have been honest with and warned off (a bit late unfortunately)’
However, despite all the damning evidence in the letters and documents Cardinal George Pell still refuses to appear at the inquiry.
In one chilling interview with a Catholic Church Insurance investigator on June 6, 1994, when asked what happened in Mortlake, Ridsdale said: ‘I got out of control again. I went haywire there. Altar boys mainly.
‘It was no secret around Mortlake eventually about me and my behaviour; there was talk all around the place amongst the children and one lot of parents came to me.’
Ridsdale couldn’t have made his intentions any clearer to then Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns in a letter informing the bishop he would be stepping down from parish work in Horsham, April 11 in 1988.
‘I confirm my request to step down from parish work in this diocese so that I may be removed from the kind of work that has proved to be a temptation and a difficulty for me,’ Ridsdale said.
Then in May in a 1979 letter to an abuse victim named only as BAF, Ridsdale showed how mentally warped he was when he wrote to him as if they were romantically involved when in reality he was sexually abusing the victim.
In a letter from Bishop Mulkearns to Risdale that starts off in a friendly tone, it later gets serious when he tells Risdale ‘I do not think that it would be a good idea for you to celebrate Reconciliation or Baptism at this stage’
In this letter dated November 22, 1988, Ridsdale writes to Bishop Mulkearns telling him how much he is enjoying his hiatus from his job
Being out in the fresh air doing a lot of physical work with a ‘pick and wheel barrow’ helped Risdale. He signs off by saying he hopes the bishop’s’ trip to Rome was successful’ and ‘ that you passed the test’
‘I don’t know how much you know about me or how much you’ve guessed, but you’re the first person I’ve ever wanted to open up to (although I seem to do that in a roundabout way) – you’re the first kid I have been honest with and warned off (a bit late unfortunately, but I suppose all experiences bring some good out in us),’ Ridsdale said.
‘I suppose I really don’t want to be a priest with you – a friend or whatever. When I pray for you, God comes first – when I’m with you, you are first.’
During this time senior members of the Catholic Church reacted to Ridsdale’s numerous offences by ignoring damning evidence and suspending him for a period of time before moving him to other parishes where they hoped he’d not cause as much trouble.
In a Letter from Bishop Mulkearns to Ridsdale in White Cliffs on November 27, 1988, after he had been suspended for a year for child abuse, Bishop Mulkearns was happy Ridsdale had been doing some work with local families but said it was not a good idea for him to celebrate reconciliation or baptism.
Ridsdale was convicted of abusing more than 50 children in three decades
‘With regard to the problems which have arisen, it could possibly be asked at a later date whether you continued to administer sacraments and it would be to be able to state that you had not been involved at this level with people,’ Bishop Mulkearns said.
‘I hope I don’t sound too harsh in the above, but I feel that it is most important that we honour the undertakings which have been given and that we do nothing at this time which might rebound on us later.
‘I have every hope that nothing more will eventuate, but we have to do our part to ensure that it does not.’
Bishop Mulkearns confirms that Ridsdale is suspended for a year in 1988 but that ‘it does not preclude your celebration of the Eucharist privately’
Bishop Mulkearns makes it clear that Ridsdale has been granted leave from Parish work in May 1988
Over the years Bishop Mulkearns has defended his actions when it came to the handling of Ridsdale
Shockingly this was years after Ridsdale had proved to be a serial abuser as a letter dated September 3, 1984 from Bishop Mulkearns to Reverend James Fitzpatrick of the Catholic Enquiry Centre reveals.
‘I might add that I had a good discussion with him (Ridsdale) about the problem which arose early in the year and of which we spoke prior to your departure overseas,’ Bishop Mulkearns wrote to Reverend Fitzpatrick.
‘He was quite open about the situation and said that he has discussed it with the Melbourne priest who is advising him and certainly hopes that it is not something which will crop up again.’
A letter from Bishop Mulkearns to Reverend James Fitzpatrick of the Catholic Enquiry Centre in 1985 talks of Ridsdale’s trnsfer to the centre after more offences