Notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale wormed his way into a Sydney family’s life and ‘‘latched on’’ to a young boy before abusing him at Bulli Parish, where he worked for three weekends as a relieving priest in the 1980s.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat has heard the 81-year-old former priest went on to abuse children in Maroubra and the Diocese of Wollongong after he had been sent away from Ballarat because of multiple complaints that he was sexually abusing children.
Despite conditions imposed by Ballarat’s Bishop Ronald Mulkearns that Ridsdale be tranfered to work in a desk job at Sydney’s Catholic Inquiry Centre and have no contact with children, the paedophile tracked down a prayer group which included families with children.
"In this particular prayer group, you latched on to a 10 or 11 year-old boy straight away, didn’t you?," counsel assisting the commissioner, Gail Furness, said during Thursday’s hearing.
"And you became friendly with the family, you had a computer and a keyboard that you used because the boy was interested in keyboards, and you lent him the keyboard, didn’t you?
"In your words, you wormed your way into his family?"
"Yes, that would be right," Ridsdale said.
During this time, in 1983, Ridsdale spent three consecutive weekends as the relieving priest in Bulli, the commission heard, which he said would have been part of his ‘‘PR work’’ at the inquiry centre.
"You said in 1994 that on three of those - or at least two of those weekends the boy you met through the Charismatic Prayer Group stayed with you at Bulli?," Ms Furness said.
"Yes," he answered.
"And you offended against him, didn’t you?"
Mr Ridsdale told the commission he did not believe he would have been supervised at any time while he worked in Bulli, but does not specifically remember working in the Illawarra.
However, he said he would have needed permission from the Catholic inquiry centre’s director, Father Fitzpatrick, and a parish priest in order to work in any area.
"I would have had to have the permission of the director and the permission of the parish priest of the parish where I was going for the weekend," he told the commission.
"Often when I would go or be invited to a parish, the parish priest would usually occasion to have some time off. He wouldn’t have been there; I would have been filling in for those three weeks while he was either sick or away, I would say.
"I’m pretty sure there was no one else there, but I can’t remember being there, but most of the parishes that I went to for weekends, it was only a one man parish or one priest parish."
The hearing continues.