A bishop is facing intense scrutiny for his failure to respond to the pleas of parents trying to protect their children from paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.
Several parents complained to Brisbane auxiliary bishop Brian Finnigan about Ridsdale’s “disturbing” behaviour in Mortlake in 1981 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was told.
The inquiry heard Bishop Finnigan, then secretary to Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, told parents he there was no reason to be concerned about Ridsdale.
The commission was told Bishop Finnigan never reported any complaints to Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns.
Bishop Finnigan said he had no proof the allegations were true.
“That was the information that was said (at the time) whether it was true or not was another question,” he told the inquiry.
Documents revealed in one instance, Bishop Finnigan took a complaint in confidence from a Mortake mother, BAI. She said she feared for her son’s safety and requested a meeting with then Bishop Mulkearns.
The inquiry heard the day after the BAI contacted Bishop Finningan, Ridsdale visited the family’s house unannounced.
The inquiry heard, Ridsdale demanded the son in question come into the room and tell his parents “there had been a misunderstanding.”
BAI later went to complain directly to Bishop Mulkearns but said he was “completely devoid of any emotion” and did not mention the initial complaint which she made to Fr Finnigan more than a year earlier.
She said it was a “surreal” moment that left her devastated.
Child abuse royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan asked Bishop Finnigan why he did not raise the alarm when it was put to him that children could be in danger.
Further confidential Catholic Church Insurance Investigator documents tendered to the commission revealed in 1993, Bishop Finnigan admitted up to four parents had complained to him about Ridsdale’s interactions with young boys.
Parents raised concerns Ridsdale was “over-friendly” to the boys and regularly invited them over to the presbytery.
“Well I was puzzled really about why they were there,” he told the inquiry. “I’m now looking back and it was very ignorant and stupid of me.”
The inquiry heard in another CCI document Bishop Finnigan said Mortlake was “one of the real trouble spots” and went as far to detail there were issues with Ridsdale and “kids in classes.”
Bishop Finnigan told the inquiry he had heard the complaint from another parish priest and passed it onto the CCI but he could not recall who the priest who told him was.
The hearing continues.