BALLARAT - AUSTRALIA : Australia Gold Rush city grapples with the sins of its clergy

St Alipius Primary School, Ballarat :

Rob Walsh was outside Melbourne Magistrates Court  recently awaiting a pretrial hearing for Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's third-highest ranking official, when, he said, he unexpectedly walked into the cardinal himself.

The encounter was their first. They were both raised in the old mining town of Ballarat, Australia, which could be why the cardinal extended his hand, inviting Mr. Walsh to shake it.

Mr. Walsh declined  - a gesture that signified the lasting impact of a decades-long sexual abuse scandal that has rocked Ballarat and sent shock waves around the world.

''The ripple is till on the lake, and it's still occurring,'' Mr. Walsh said from his home in Ballarat, referring to the lingering effects from that scandal, in which priests preyed on children, Mr. Walsh, during the 1960s and 1970s.

''It's gone through families and generations.''

Ballarat, a city of bout 100,000  people, was once the center of Australia's gold rush, but is better known as the the epicenter of that pedophile ring, Roman Catholic clergy took advantage of those who depended on them the most - children from poor, blue collar neighborhoods.

The scale of the abuse was staggering.

Gerald Ridsdale, the former Chaplain of St. Alipius Primary School in Balarat, was improsoned for sexually abusing 65 children from the early 1960s to late 1980s. He was only one of several priests convicted of abusing children.

About 45 victims were estimated to have committed suicide, prompting an outpouring of grief from once devout Catholic parents who said the church robbed them of their sons.

Today, survivors speak of  broken marriages, children being raised without fathers, lives spent in haze of drugs and alcohol or in and out of institutional care

One past Thursday, the Melbourne court ruled that Cardinal Pell must stand trial on several charges of sexual abuse, promising to prolong a case that has already dragged on for months. When asked to enter a plea, the Cardinal said ''not gulity''. He was ordered to surrender his passport.

What happened in Ballarat is often likened to a big black cloud hanging over the city that has never fully lifted.

The Sad honor and serving continues to part 2. !WOW! thanks author and researcher Jacqueline Williams.


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