Ronald Mulkearn was one of the most revered bishops of his time, serving the Catholic Church for decades spanning from 1956 to 1997.
Mulkearn was powerful. Churchgoers looked up to him as a source of knowledge, guidance – even hope.
However, Bishop Ronald Mulkearn was not the man he appeared to be.
Mulkearn was treacherous and disturbed, covering up the crimes of perverted paedophile priests while maintaining his innocence until his death in 2016.
Mulkearn allowed perverted men to touch, abuse and rape children under his watch.
He did nothing to stop them – in fact, he made it his mission to protect these sex offenders in the interests of the Church’s reputation.
Mulkearn’s moral compass was broken.
This man was charged with a leadership position within an organisation responsible for the children within its care.
He chose to protect paedophiles instead of helping the powerless victims.
He chose to allow these criminals the chance to offend more innocent children.
He chose the church’s ‘brand image’ over the responsibilities of his position.
Bishop Ronald Mulkearn was ordained a priest in 1956 and became Bishop of Ballarat in 1971. He served as bishop for 26 years before retiring in 1997.
Mulkearn was aware child abuse was occurring in the Church throughout the 1970s.
Monsignor John Day served under Mulkearn in Ballarat and was well known in the prostitution rings of St Kilda. The Monsignor was also known for molesting underage students at St Joseph’s College, Mildura.
In 1971, Headmaster John Howden collected 16 written statements from students and urged Bishop Mulkearn to remove Monsignor Day from parishes.
Mulkearn allegedly rejected the idea.
“I have been assured by the police, who rightly take a very serious view of charges of this nature, [that] they have satisfied themselves there is no substance to these charges,” Mulkearn said to Howden.
In 1972, a journalist threatened to expose the story in the press. Monsignor Day fled to Portugal and avoided charges.
Rather than reporting the abuse to the police and protecting the safety of others within the church, Mulkearn moved Ridsdale between various parishes where he continued to prey on children under his care.
Mulkearn’s decision to allow Ridsdale the chance to re-offend had genuinely heartbreaking ramifications.
Gerald Ridsdale was later convicted of a staggering 138 sex offences against 53 victims.
One of his victims held a photo of a class from St Alipius Primary School in front of the Royal Commission and stated that 12 of the 33 boys had committed suicide as a result of abuse.
Mulkearn had the chance to prevent these unforgivable crimes.
His decision not to report Ridsdale allowed this sick, twisted monster to ruin the lives of so many Australian children and their families.
In February 2016, Mulkearn finally apologised during videolink testimony to the Royal Commission regarding his failure to stop perverted priests from abusing children in his churches.
He described the issue as “the problem with priests”.
This description is a sickening understatement. The abuse of children in the Melbourne diocese was rampant, vicious and unforgiving, consigning so many Australian families to decades of trauma and despair.
In the third and final hearing of the Ballarat Diocese’ response to child sexual abuse, Mulkearn said he knew the rape of young children was wrong and admitted he wanted protect the church’s reputation.
However, Mulkearn claimed he couldn’t remember asking priests about the abuse because he’d suffered a stroke and had problems with his memory.
The Royal Commission wrapped up in December 2017 and found Mulkearn had known about several paedophile priests and instances of abuse throughout the 1970s. He did nothing to save or help the children.
“This case study exposed a catastrophic failure in the leadership of the Diocese… the failure led to the suffering and often irreparable harm to children, their families and the wider community,” the Commission said.
“That harm could have been avoided if the Church had acted in the interests of children rather than in its own interests.”
Mulkearn suffered from colorectal cancer and died in 2016 – long before the Commission submitted their recommendations to the Australian Government.
Ballarat clergy sex abuse survivor, Phil Nagle, said “his passing means a lot of secrets and sins will go to the grave with him.”
Bishop Ronald Mulkearn was a dreadful protector of paedophile priests.
He allowed perverted men to molest and rape children throughout Victoria.
Throughout his service, hundreds of children had their innocence stolen and their lives irreparably altered.
Protecting paedophiles is a serious, sickening crime and men like Mulkearn need to face justice for covering up child sexual abuse.
Our mission is to help survivors of abuse achieve justice and make men like Mulkearn pay for their crimes. If you have been abused by the Catholic Church or another institution, please contact us today. It’s time to take action.
Image: The Courier