Victims’ advocates are sceptical a former Victorian bishop will reveal the full extent of what the church knew about pedophile priests when he and Cardinal George Pell appear before the child abuse royal commission.
Cardinal Pell has already agreed to return from Rome to give evidence to the inquiry into widespread abuse in the Ballarat diocese.
The commission has now said then-Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who knew Australia’s worst pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale and others were sexually abusing children, will also give evidence at a public hearing later this year.
Victims’ advocacy group Broken Rites has previously said Bishop Mulkearns has a lot to answer for after he moved Ridsdale and other priests between parishes during his time as bishop of Ballarat from 1971 to 1997.
But founder Chris Wilding is not convinced Bishop Mulkearns’ appearance will deliver what victims want.
“There’s no guarantee that his memory is going to be able to recall anything of any use, because what we’ve seen so far is the same tactic over and over again where they can’t recall or ‘I don’t remember’,” she told AAP.
“It’s going to be very very difficult even if he does appear for anyone to get the truth out of him.”
Bishop Mulkearns did not appear before a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child abuse in 2013, citing ill health.
He appeared as a witness on Wednesday during a committal hearing in the Geelong Magistrates Court for a former priest charged with sexual assault offences.
Cardinal Pell, now the Vatican’s financial chief, has given evidence to the royal commission on two other occasions and to the Victorian inquiry, and has promised full co-operation.
Victims and advocates called for Cardinal Pell to appear in person before the Ballarat inquiry but Ms Wilding questioned what would come out of it.
“I don’t think he’s going to shed any light on anything at all,” Ms Wilding said.
The commission’s public hearing in Ballarat in May was told Bishop Mulkearns knew in 1975 that Ridsdale had abused boys, but did not suspend his priestly faculties until 13 years later.
Ridsdale gave evidence that he never told Pell, with whom he and another priest shared the St Alipius presbytery in Ballarat East for about a year in 1973.
Convicted priest Paul David Ryan, 66, also told the commission Bishop Mulkearns knew about him but church leaders buried their heads about clergy abusing children in Ballarat.
Cardinal Pell has repeatedly rejected claims he tried to bribe a victim to keep quiet, ignored complaints and was involved in moving Ridsdale to a different parish.
The second stage of the public hearing will be staged in Melbourne from November 23 and is expected to run for up to four weeks.