Senior church officials, including Cardinal George Pell may have known Gerald Ridsdale was offending in the late 1970s.
Clergy including retired Ballarat Diocese priest William Melican already knew about Ridsdale’s sexual misconduct at a high-level church meeting held in 1979 where it was decided to send Ridsdale for treatment, an inquiry heard.
The child sex abuse inquiry was told church leaders including Cardinal Pell, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, Father Frank Madden, Monsignor Leo Fiscalini, Father Daniel Arundell and others were at a meeting where it was decided to send Ridsdale away.
The evidence countradicts all previous reports that problems managing Ridsdale were first raised by former Bishop Mulkearns at a meeting of seven priests including Cardinal Pell in 1982.
The inquiry heard Ridsdale's behaviour was so rampant by 1980 that the diocese decided to send him to the National Pastoral Institute in Elsternwick.
Counsel assisting the commission Angus Stewart questioned Fr Melican on the reasons behind sending Ridsdale away.
“It stands to reason, doesn't it, from what we do know that that was to get him out of parish work?” Mr Stewart said.
Fr Melican responded “yes.”
Mr Stewart probed further, suggesting it was an attempt to keep Ridsdale out of parish work and away from children. Fr Melican admitted it was.
When asked by Mr Stewart, if it was known to the bishop’s College of Consultors that Ridsale was molesting children at the time, Fr Melican said “yes.”
The inquiry heard this week, Ridsdale’s sexual behaviour was again raised at clergy meeting in 1982 when Bishop Mulkearns told his consultors there was problem with “homosexuality” in the diocese.