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Child sexual abuse inquiry: Notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale feared confession would cost him priesthood, royal commission hears.

By PETA CARLYON.

One of Australia’s most notorious paedophiles, Gerald Ridsdale, never revealed the extent of his offending to avoid being stripped of his priesthood, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse in Ballarat has heard.

The elderly Ridsdale is giving evidence to the inquiry via video link from Ararat prison, where he is serving an eight-year sentence for the rape and abuse of children, some of them as young as four.

He told the royal commission he could not remember committing some of the offences and had forgotten the names of some of his earliest victims.

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Gerald Ridsdale appearing via video link at the Royal Commission today. Image: ABC.

Ridsdale revealed he “didn’t confess the sexual offending against children” because he had a great fear of losing his priesthood.

“I was a very proud person … it just would’ve been devastating,” he told the commission.

He also told senior counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, he could no longer recall being abused himself as a child, despite making statements to that effect in the 1990s.

Ridsdale said statements he made in 1994, about being abused by members of the clergy, including a Christian Brother when he was 11 or 12 years old, would have been correct at the time.

The inquiry is examining what the Catholic Church knew about the extent of Ridsdale’s offending as he was moved from town to town.

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He was quizzed at length about whether or not people were warned about his offending tendencies as he was moved from between schools around western Victoria, in the 1960s and 70s.

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Gerald Ridsdale. Image: ABC.

When asked by Ms Furness if anyone was notified at Mildura, when he was relocated there from Ballarat, he answered “I don’t know”.

Ridsdale did say he was warned by clergy in Ballarat before being moved to Mildura, “if this happens again you’ll be off to the missions”.

Ridsdale recalled abusing choir boys in Mildura, and later at Swan Hill, when he was again moved on.

“Yes … there would probably be another couple [of victims] there,” he told Ms Furness.

But Ridsdale said as far as he knew, no-one in Swan Hill was aware of his offending, and he would not know if anyone at his next location, Warrnambool had been warned.

He said he was told “in the usual manner” that he would be relocated and that there was “no consultation”.

Ridsdale unable to control his sexual urges.

Ms Furness also asked Ridsdale about his sexual urges.

He told the commission he felt bound to become a priest because of family expectations, but had problems controlling his sexual urges from the beginning.

Ridsdale said he would make confessions that he had masturbated, and was hoping to receive some “sexual instructions” from the church about what was appropriate during his training as a priest.

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“Did you ever feel the need for intimacy, hugging and closeness?” asked Ms Furness of Ridsdale’s time at the Werribee seminary, where he started out.

“I think I’ve always felt the need for closeness,” Ridsdale responded.

He said he had had one adult relationship for three years, with a fellow prisoner.

Ridsdale said he was aware his offending against children was a crime.

“Did it occur to you at the time that you were hurting the children?” commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan asked Ridsdale.

“Your Honour, I just don’t know … I don’t know what I was thinking,” Ridsdale said.

Ridsdale told the inquiry the church should report crimes to the police.

He was asked if the church should have notified authorities of his own offending over the years.

He replied: “What I’ve done and the damage that I’ve done … I’d say, definitely yes”.

Ridsdale said while he had come to the view now that crimes should be disclosed, when he was a priest, “everything told in confession was to be kept secret”.

Inquiry probes Ridsdale’s relationship with Cardinal George Pell.

Ridsdale told the royal commission the fact Cardinal George Pell accompanied him to court on child sex abuse charges in the 1990s was insignificant.

He said he could not recall much about his relationship with the then Father Pell in Ballarat in the 1970s, except he “would’ve met him, because he was Ballarat born-and-bred”.

“I can’t remember him being there … I can’t remember him … I never had much to do with him,” Ridsdale said of Cardinal Pell.

“We needed some people to come along [to court] for support … I don’t see it as having a very big significance.”

Ridsdale said his barrister asked Cardinal Pell to go to court, and he did not ask him himself.

He said, at the time, he did not know if Cardinal Pell knew about the nature of his charges, and he did not know, what Cardinal Pell planned to say.

He said his legal team was “clutching at straws.”

The hearing continues.

Read more: 

There are 12 boys in this school photo. Four took their own lives after being sexually abused as children.

George Pell urged to return home to face royal commission.

Immigration department aware of child sexual abuse on Nauru.

This article was originally published by ABC News. 

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