Former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns has died.
Bishop Mulkearns, aged 85, died on Sunday night after a long battle with cancer. Church officials confirmed his death to The Courier this morning.
He was considered the “keeper of secrets” in the Catholic Church, with many clergy sex abuse survivors believing he could have stopped much of the horrific abuse to occur throughout the region.
Bishop Mulkearns made his much-anticipated appearance at the child sexual abuse inquiry via videolink from the nursing home where he had lived February.
He told the inquiry he was “terribly sorry” he did not take the mounting sexual abuse allegations about offending clergy seriously and admitted he did not know how to handle the situation.
The hearing was adjourned after about 90 minutes due to Bishop Mulkearns' ill health and he did not reappear.
Ballarat clergy abuse survivor Phil Nagle said Bishop Mulkearns would now be taking his secrets to the grave after failing to fully answer questions around the abuse.
“His passing means a lot of secrets and sins will go to the grave with him,” he said.
“When you look at how this has been going on in history (...) it has been stalled as such, this just makes it a bit easier for the (Catholic Church).
However, Mr Nagle said Cardinal George Pell was very significant in confirming that it was Bishop Mulkearns who covered up the abuse and hid it from many others within the church.
WATCH BISHOP MULKEARNS’ MOST RECENT HEARING AT THE ROYAL COMMISSION HERE
Ballarat clergy sexual abuse survivor Peter Blenkiron said Bishop Mulkearns’ death should act as a reminder to all organisations that protection of children should be paramount.
“Let Mulkearns’ death be a reminder to all organisations that children must be safe,” he said.
“Systems, checks and laws must be put in place to protect children of the future and children damaged in the past, that need support today.”
“To those who have the power to implement change, this is your time to make a difference.”