FORMER Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns has been excused from giving evidence to the Victorian government inquiry into institutionalised sexual abuse.
Inquiry chairman Georgie Crozier said an independent neuropsychological assessment of Bishop Mulkearns had been undertaken by Dr Nathaniel Popp.
Bishop Mulkearns suffered a stroke several years ago, but it was revealed during an April 29 inquiry hearing at Parliament House he could still conduct Mass.
However, Ms Crozier said the recent testing showed Bishop Mulkearns could not provide reliable evidence from his time as Ballarat bishop.
Instead, she said the committee had several documents made available to it instead.
Bishop Mulkearns was Ballarat bishop when 107 substantiated cases of abuse occurred in the 1970s, involving paedophiles Gerard Ridsdale, Edward Dowlan, Robert Best and Stephen Farrell.
At the April 29 inquiry hearing, current Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird and former Bishop Peter Connors said Bishop Mulkearns had made “tragic mistakes” in his handling of the sexual abuse reports, particularly by moving priests around the diocese and recommending counselling and therapy instead of removing them from the ministry.
At the hearing, committee member Nick Wakeling said there was a fundamental breakdown in the whole diocese, covering up for priests with little regard for victims.
“The evidence is clear, the blame should be sheeted back to the diocese,” Mr Wakeling said.
Australian Catholic University Aquinas campus Ballarat, which includes the Mulkearns Theatre, is considering the recent inquiry revelations.
“The unfolding of the church’s handling of child sexual abuse is distressing and shameful,” ACU Ballarat campus Dean Professor Joe Fleming said.
“These recent revelations will be considered by ACU with a determination not to perpetuate any further distress or to inadvertently ignore what has been a shameful episode in the church’s history.”