The multi-million dollar estate of a former bishop who was blamed for allowing pedophile priests to operate in Victoria will be used to help victims of abuse.
Former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who died in April, left $2.1 million to be used by the current Roman Catholic bishop of Ballarat for the benefit of the diocese “at his absolute discretion”, the Herald Sun reported.
Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird decided the funds will go to help victims.
“Whatever the diocese of Ballarat receives from Bishop Mulkearns’ estate, I intend to set aside for assistance to victims of abuse,” Bishop Bird said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This will continue the support that the diocese has given to abuse victims over many years.”
His office could not confirm the estate’s value or precisely how the estate would be used.
Ballarat abuse survivor Andrew Collins thinks the proceeds should go to those hurt by the late bishop’s actions.
“His assets should be distributed to victims whose lives have been destroyed and damaged by his actions,” Mr Collins told the Herald Sun.
National support group for abuse victims, Care Leavers Australia Network, hoped the money would be shared nationally, as many of the Ballarat victims no longer live in the area.
“Not everyone that was abused in Ballarat now lives in Ballarat,” CLAN chief executive Leonie Sheedy told AAP on Tuesday.
“It needs to go in a fund that distributes that independently of the Catholic Church.”
During the child abuse royal commission, Bishop Mulkearns said he was sorry and regretted not dealing with pedophile priests properly, saying he was trying to protect the church’s reputation and stop further offending.
The commission heard Bishop Mulkearns knew pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale and others were sexually abusing children and moved them between parishes.
He also destroyed documents in Ridsdale’s file.
While Ms Sheedy welcomed Bishop Bird’s move to donate the estate to abuse victims, she noted it was rare.
She said many pedophile priests who received protection like that given by Bishop Mulkearns died without their assets going to help victims.
“How many other pedophiles have died and their assets have gone to the parish church?” she said.
“I think this is an issue that needs more exposure.”
Bishop Mulkearns’ estate is said to contain real estate and cash.