Gerald Ridsdale, one of Australia's most notorious paedophile priests who admitted abusing at least 53 children between 1961 to 1982, has been sentenced to eight years in jail.
County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes said Ridsdale's "unfettered sexual deviance" had been a blatant breach of the trust existing between priests and parishioners.
Judge Rozenes said Ridsdale had preyed on his vulnerable victims under the guise of being the 'friendly priest'.
Ridsdale's position in the church involved a high degree of trust and some degree of power and his offending had had a devastating impact on his young victims.
The Catholic Church had unfortunately allowed Ridsdale's criminal behaviour to go unchecked for so long, Judge Rozenes said when jailing Ridsdale for eight years with a non-parole period of five years.
Ridsdale, who has been in prison since 1994 and is in poor health, had been due for release on June 29, 2019, from his previous jail sentences when he would be 85 before Tuesday's sentence was handed down.
He will now not be released, unless granted parole, until 2022 and is expected to die in prison.
Judge Rozenes said it was disturbing that one of Ridsdale's victims believed another priest was present when Ridsdale had been abusing her.
"This complainant believes another priest was present for a short time while you were sexually assaulting her and must have been aware of the assault but did not intervene," the judge said.
"I raise this merely to make an observation: namely that this behaviour appears to be demonstrative of the church's approach to sexual abuse at the time which ultimately – and unfortunately for your victims – allowed your criminal behaviour to go unchecked for so long."
Judge Rozenes said the contents of the victim impact statements detailing the effect of Ridsdale's offending could only be described as powerful.
"Collectively they shared some common themes: a feeling of being exploited; feeling trapped, powerless, worthless and humiliated; anger at, and distrust of, the Catholic church; loss of faith and innocence; loss of the enjoyment of childhood; a sense of bewilderment and disbelief; and the fracturing of family relationships.
"Tragically, many thought that they were to blame for your actions. To me, one of the most tragic comments I heard was that "if I had ‘taken my turn’ maybe my little brothers would have had happier lives"."
The judge said the mothers of some of the victims "conveyed an understandable, but unjustified, guilt at having failed to protect their children".
"Mr Ridsdale, I sincerely hope that you now understand how your offending has not only affected your victims, but created a ripple effect that has touched upon all aspects of their lives."
Ridsdale's victims were as young as four years old and many were altar boys whose lives had been destroyed by the evil predatory priest.
When one boy dared to resist him, Ridsdale told him his conduct was "sinful" and he must go to confession to repent his sins. He abused another victim in the confessional box after ordering the young girl to say the prayer, "Forgive me Father for I have sinned".
Ridsdale told one nine-year-old boy that the abuse was "the Lord's work", described a four-year-old girl he was abusing as "God's little angel" and gave another victim a piece of communion bread as a reward for being abused.
He was moved from parish to parish after complaints and later admitted he could not have been as active as he was as a paedophile if he had not been a Catholic priest.
At one stage in 1994, he offered to be chemically castrated to try to have his then 18-year jail term reduced.
Ridsdale, 79, who has been in prison since 1994, was jailed on Tuesday for eight years with a non-parole period of five years after pleading guilty to 39 new charges involving sex offences against 11 boys and three girls.
He was first jailed for three months in 1993 after admitting to sexually abusing eight boys; jailed for 18 years in 1994 for sexually abusing 20 boys and one girl; and jailed for another 13 years in 2006 for sexually abusing 10 boys.
Ridsdale, who had been due for parole in August last year, was charged with these latest offences after more victims came forward to give evidence against him to the parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse.
The Broken Rites victim support group believes the total number of Ridsdale's victims could be several hundred but many people have been reluctant to come forward.
When Ridsdale appeared for the first time in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in May 1993 to face sexual abuse charges, the now Cardinal George Pell was by his side for support.
Ridsdale had shared a house with Dr Pell for about a year from early 1973 at the St Alipius Presbytery, next door to the primary school, at Ballarat.
Dr Pell, then an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, said at the time that Ridsdale "had made terrible mistakes". He said: "It was simply a gesture on my part."
Three years later, on the eve of his swearing-in as archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Pell said he had had "no idea" about Ridsdale's activities when they lived together.
"I lived there with him and there was not even a whisper," Dr Pell said then. "It was a different age, it was never mentioned."
Dr Pell, who has been been appointed the Prefect for the Economy of the Holy See, one of the Vatican's most senior roles responsible for reforming its administration and finances, has admitted he made a mistake supporting Ridsdale in 1993 but continues to insist he had 'little idea of the full extent and gravity of his crimes".