Bishop Bird agrees to be defendant

STEP FORWARD: Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird has agreed to be the defendant for the diocese to allow clergy sex abuse survivors to sue the Catholic Church.

STEP FORWARD: Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird has agreed to be the defendant for the diocese to allow clergy sex abuse survivors to sue the Catholic Church.

Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird’s decision to be sued for clergy sexual abuse claims has been lauded by survivors.

The decision will pave the way for victims to bring the Ballarat diocese to court over the actions of the previous bishop who is alleged to have presided over child sex abuse.

Peter Blenkiron said this morning’s announcement was a “grateful surprise”.

“I hope that Paul will show the way forward for other bishops,” Mr Blenkiron said.

“This has been a shining light in all this and I hold this hope very dearly that Ballarat will lead the way for all of Australia.”

Bishop Bird has agreed to put himself forward as the defendant for the Ballarat diocese after new guidelines came into effect on January 1 this year making all church authorities provide an entity for victims to sue.

His stance would allow for notorious paedophile and disgraced priest Gerald Ridsdale’s early victims who were abused under the leadership of the former bishop James O'Collins to now sue the Ballarat diocese.

“I’ve inherited the history of the community, for good and for ill, and therefore should be ready to address that history in so far as it needs to be addressed,” Bishop Bird said.

Fellow clergy abuse survivor Andrew Collins said the announcement by Bishop Bird had been long awaited. 

“I’m very pleased to see the church finally standing up and taking responsibility for the pain clergy have caused to victims over many years,” he said.

“We have long said Ballarat is one of the worst places for abuse in Australia and the world. We’d like to see solutions and healing starting in Ballarat and we are glad to see the bishop showing some leadership and taking steps to do this.”