Ballarat Bishop Accepts Criticism in Sex Abuse Case

Catholic News [Australia]
August 15, 2006

Following the sentence of former priest Gerard Ridsdale to four more years jail for sexual abuse of 10 boys from 1970 to 1987, Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors has accepted the judge's criticism of the Church and has offered assistance to victims.

Judge Bill White has criticised the Church for allowing Ridsdale to continue to prey on boys as young as six-years-old by moving him from parish to parish after complaints were lodged against him, the Ballarat Courier reports.

"I came to the diocese nine years ago, so therefore everything that happened with Ridsdale happened before I was here," Bishop Peter Connors said.

"Certainly I've since met a number of victims of Ridsdale's and agree with the judge that the nature of the assaults was terrible and the ongoing effects on the victims and their families has been terrible."

Mr Ridsdale, who admitted to his 24th counts of indecent assault on a male person under 16, four of buggery and seven of gross indecency, was removed from the priesthood in 1992.

"We have learnt a lot about pedophiles in the last 20 to 25 years. Now if there was even one incident of complaint, I would say to that priest that you cannot continue in the ministry," Bishop Connors said.

"People who decide that the church is corrupt or always protecting pedophiles can be assured that that is certainly not true."

Bishop Connors said he had not received a complaint about a priest assaulting a minor during his nine years as the head of the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat.

He said Mr Ridsdale's crimes had a terrible effect on the morale of his brother priests.

Bishop Connors said he had endeavoured to visit the communities across the western district where Mr Ridsdale had committed his crimes while working as a priest.

"I have offered practical assistance to those victims who wish to meet with me," he said.

"I dont want to be defensive about this. I think it is good that these people have been able to have their day in court because I think that helps their healing process."

Bishop's Aid Offer to Victims (Ballarat Courier, 15/8/06)

New Controversies in Sex Abuse Cases (CathNews, 14/8/06)
More Charges for Jailed Priest (CathNews, 8/7/05)
Prosecutors Block Child Sex Charges against Ex-Priest (CathNews, 17/8/04)
Pedophile Priest May Face More Charges (CathNews, 14/12/04)

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