Father James Kerr is one of a few boys from Ballarat's St Patrick's College who joined the priesthood. (ABC Open: Marc Eiden)
It's the spiritual birthplace of the trade union movement, the gateway to Victoria's gold rush and Australia's source of Mars Bars.
However, in recent years, the intensely Catholic city of Ballarat in Victoria has been infamous for the gang of paedophile priests which operated with impunity.
Among them was Gerald Ridsdale, who conceded before the child abuse royal commission that even if he had been found out, he would have lied.
He used to be known as Father Gerry or Father Ridsdale — a man who could be trusted because of his devotion to God.
"He was a kind and gentle man, very kind," said Joanna, a former parishioner who did not want to use her full name.
"He visited, he did things around the parish. You would have no idea, none of us had any idea that there was anything going on and that's the sad part. He was a good priest."
It was decades before communities along Victoria's rosary belt would learn he had abused what is estimated to be more than 100 of their children.
'How could I not have protected my own son?'
Ridsdale's conviction blindsided and baffled the communities that had trusted him.
It was 15 years after he went behind bars before Joanna's son admitted that he had been molested.
"I screamed ... just up and down the passage ... absolutely screaming to think how could I not have protected my own son," she said.
Joanna's son has since died, but the gut-wrenching betrayal was not enough to shake her faith.
"I truly have forgiven him. I actually have pity for him. When I saw him on the television, I thought, you're to be pitied. You're to be pitied," she said.
'I think it's shaken everybody's faith'
For the Catholic Church and clergy, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse has brought a chill to Ballarat's air.
Father James Kerr, 29, is one of the few boys from Ballarat's St Patrick's College to go on to join the priesthood.
Father James Kerr says it is only fair that priests cop anger from the community. (ABC Open: Marc Eiden)
He is one of fewer who have stayed in Ballarat as the royal commission raged.
"I've only been abused [by members of the public] twice," Fr Kerr said.
"It is hard because your integrity's questioned. But behind that is a pain and you've got to recognise that, too.
"If that means from time to time that I have to cop that kind of anger, then that's fair."
Father Justin Driscoll, the vicar-general of the Ballarat diocese, said the pressure was too much to bear for some parishioners.
"I think it's shaken everybody's faith," he said.
"Some to the point where they have walked away, others staying with the sense of, 'well, where else would I go?'"
Ballarat's Catholics keeping faith
Despite the difficult times for the church, baptism numbers are steady, according to Father Driscoll.
He said people had continued to seek out the church throughout the royal commission hearings.
"Sometimes I ask them, do you really know who you're coming to? Do you know who we are? And they're under no pretences," he said.
Joanna said her son found it intensely difficult to reconcile her religion.
"He would've liked to give up my faith, but he knew I couldn't. He knew that I had faith in Jesus and not in priests," she said.
"Jesus … said forgive them father, but he didn't say, 'hey, the crucifixion didn't hurt'.
"He said, 'Forgive them they know not what they do'."
He said that with regard to the people who were crucifying Him. I don't believe it is applicable to all sinners especially pedophile priests who bloody well knew what they were doing. Nevertheless, while it is up to us to forgive, Jesus wasn't praying for such heartless, hypocritical, perverted priests on the Cross. Pedophiles destroy innocence, and that may be their ruling compulsion, but it is also a direct act of violence against God.