The ABC reports…
“Retired Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the Ballarat diocese during the time of paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale and told an inquiry he was not sure if he knew child abuse was a crime, has died.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne announced his death from cancer at age 85.
Bishop Mulkearns, who retired in 1997, was to be requestioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse after Cardinal George Pell said he was not briefed properly about abuse in Ballarat.
The retired bishop told a commission hearing in March he was not sure if he knew child abuse was a crime during his time in charge of the Ballarat diocese, but he knew it was wrong.
The commission heard Bishop Mulkearns received numerous complaints about paedophile priests over three decades but they were never referred to police.
He instead moved the priests around western Victoria where they continued to offend, the commission heard.
The former Catholic cleric had been excused from giving evidence because he was too sick, but the royal commission decided he would front the inquiry by video link from his nursing home.
During the hearing, Bishop Mulkearns apologised for the way he handled complaints of abuse in his diocese.
He said he retired in 1997 because he did not feel he was “handling himself very well”.
Clergy abuse survivors said the former bishop should not be honoured with a full Catholic funeral.
One Ballarat child sexual abuse victim, Andrew Collins, said the Catholic Church’s response to his death would indicate where they stand on abuse.
“If they have a massive funeral and basically honour him, we would be very disappointed because obviously I don’t think he was someone who should be honoured,” he said.
Mr Collins said the bishop left a devastating legacy.
“Unfortunately he won’t be remembered as a great man, he will be remembered as the man who essentially covered up and facilitated the abuses of children in the Ballarat diocese.”
The ABC has contacted friends of Bishop Mulkearns who declined to speak about his death out of fear of hurting more victims.”