Bishop Mulkearns ‘profoundly sorry’ for concealing child sex crimes


Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns struggles to sleep at night due his role in concealing the child sex crimes of priests spanning decades, an inquiry has heard.

Retired Ballarat diocese priest John McKinnon, who still visits the terminally ill bishop at hospital, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Bishop Mulkearns was “profoundly sorry” for what “he had done” or failed to do.

“He says he struggles to sleep at night…he probably still struggles to sleep of a night and so these things now are on his mind but beyond that there wasn’t much more we could say,” Fr McKinnon said.

Fr McKinnon said he had re-established contact with the bishop in the last two years as he became gravely ill with cancer.

He told the inquiry the two don’t often discuss Bishop Mulkearns’s role in covering up decades of child sex abuse but he knew had remorse for failing to act.

“His memory is worse than mine.. so it was useless doing it…he didn’t remember ,” Fr McKinnon told the inquiry. “We don’t talk about it.”

Fr McKinnon told the inquiry Bishop Mulkearns always stressed the importance of confidentiality of priests, but admitted there was a time when his protection of priests became “destructive.”

The inquiry also heard Bishop Mulkearns was “very reluctant” to mention the paedophilia of a priest.

“He just didn’t do it, unless it was public knowledge,” Fr McKinnon said.

Fr McKinnon said he took responsibility for not asking more questions when he suspected a priest was molesting children.

“We should have asked more questions,” he said.

Bishop Mulkearns is receiving palliative care and is unfit to give evidence at the inquiry.

The hearing continues.

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