Bishop's Aid Offer to Victims

The Courier
August 15, 2006

The head of Ballarat's Catholic Church has accepted a County Court judge's criticism of the church for failing to take action against former priest, Gerard Ridsdale.

Ridsdale was last week sentenced to a further four years jail for sexually abusing 10 boys between 1970 and 1987.

Judge Bill White criticised the Catholic 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.

"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."

Ridsdale, who admitted to 24thcounts 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 paedophiles 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 paedophiles 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 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 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."

Ridsdale's sentence, the second the former priest has received for former sex crimes, extended his earliest release date to 2013.


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