A RETIRED Ballarat Diocese priest says he accepts some responsibility for relocating notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale enabling him to continue to sexually abuse children for decades.
Father Frank Madden told the inquiry the first time he learnt of Ridsdale's offending was in 1988, when he resigned as his assistant priest in Horsham after two years.
He said Ridsdale told him he had to "move on” as his past had caught up with him.
Fr Madden served as Vicar-General under Bishop Ronald Mulkearns from May 1971 to May 1976 and on the College of Consultors from 1979 to 1982.
He described a culture of secrecy, in which even Bishop Mulkearn’s closet confidantes were not privy to the extent of the sexual misconduct of priests.
Fr Madden told inquiry: “I asked him what he meant by that and he told me he'd been offending against boys, children... that the matter was with the police."
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan asked Fr Madden why he then accompanied Ridsdale to court and wrote a character reference for him when he was sentenced for his offending in 1993.
Fr Madden said it was only at his sentencing hearing that he learnt of the true nature and extent of Ridsdale's crimes.
“I can’t escape responsibility for my role in not questioning some of the moves,” he told inquiry.
“I can understand that in retrospect, as being part of the College of Consultors and as vicar-general I have to take some responsibility and I regret that.”
Under-cross examination by the commission Fr Madden said he was unaware Bishop Mulkearns kept a secret set of files about priests.
“I know he was very particular about confidentiality on his priests,” he said. “Whether there were secret files I do not know.”
He told the inquiry he had no knowledge of a letter from a school principal and former police detective Denis Ryan sent to Bishop Mulkearns which reported sexual abuse allegations of Monsignor John Day.
He also denied ever having a conversation which Cardinal George Pell, then a Ballarat priest said; "I think Gerry's been r..ting boys again."
The allegation was made by witness BWE who said he overheard the priests inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in September 1983.
"Absolutely not,” he told the inquiry. “It's my experience that he (George) never used that kind of language." Fr Madden said he was living in Horsham at the time of the alleged incident.