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Catholic Church Priest Vincent Ryan has been released after
serving 14 months in prison for the historical sexual abuse of two
Unfortunately, it’s another case of historic child sexual
abuse where the perpetrator barely suffers consequences, while the
victims spend years trying to rebuild their lives after a childhood
that’s been shattered.
Long history of child sexual abuse
Vincent Ryan, who has been nicknamed the ‘Paedophile
Priest’, already served 14 years behind bars for the sexual
abuse of 35 boys, aged six to 14, between 1972 and 1991.
One of his victims committed suicide. Others have testified that
his abuse included anal and oral penetration as well as
masturbation, and that he gave his victims wine and pornographic
material with a view to sexually stimulating them.
In 2016, he was given a 15-month suspended sentence after
pleading guilty to sexual offences in the New South Wales Hunter
region from the 1980s.
In 2019, 78-year old Mr Ryan was charged with three counts of
attempted sexual intercourse with a child, three of indecently
assaulting a child and three of gross indecency against a child in
relation to two altar boys aged 13 to 15 in the Newcastle region in
the 1970s and 1980s.
Upon pleading guilty to one count of each of the charges in
Downing Centre District Court in Sydney, the remaining six
charges were withdrawn and Mr Ryan was sentenced to three years and
three months in prison.
was granted parole after 14 months behind bars, at least in
part because a pre-release report stated that, “the offender
has demonstrated excellent prison performance” and had
“positive prospects of rehabilitation” upon his
But there have long been questions about whether Mr Ryan is
genuinely remorseful for his conduct.
In a television interview with the
ABC ‘Revelation‘ series prior to his 2019
sentencing, the priest declared that God would absolve him of any
He also blamed his superiors within the Catholic Church for not
monitoring him closely once they learnt in the early 1970s that he
had abused children.
Dangers of confessional secrecy
Mr Ryan enjoyed the protection of the church over decades of
offending, including taking advantage of
After its extensive investigation into sexual abuse within the
Catholic Church, which detailed 4,444 allegations of abuse
involving more than 1,800 Church figures, The Royal Commission into
Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse strongly recommended
law reform to
lift the protection of confessional privilege for reports of child
All states and territories have committed to implementing this
recommendation, although Australia’s Catholic Church leaders
insist the sanctity of confessions must be upheld even if it means
protecting priests who are breaking the law.
But the case of Vincent Ryan is a perfect example of why priests
should not be above the law when it comes to reporting child sexual
abuse, or given the power to absolve their fellow priests of
wrongdoing and thereby giving them free reign to commit further
During investigations in the 1980s, police detectives discovered
the Church’s cover-up of Ryan’s abuse.
And he is not the only one. Notorious child sex offender Gerard
Risdale, also a former Catholic Priest, was convicted between 1993
and 2017 of
child sexual assault and indecent assault charges against 65
children, aged as young as four years.
Evidence presented in court suggested that the church knew about
Ryan’s crimes and covered them up, either by moving him to
another parish, giving him a promotion, or ostracising and
threatening the families of children who spoke out, sometimes even
offering ‘hush’ money to victims so they would keep the
abuse a secret.
Many victims have never spoken out, for fear of not being
believed, and because they felt that it was simply not possible for
them to say ‘no’ to a Church priest – someone they
were taught to respect, and who held high regard within the
community. They have simply suffered in silence.
There’s also widespread anger at the Catholic Church for
supporting priests that sexually abuse children even after they
have been convicted of them. After Mr Ryan’s release from a 14
year prison term in 2010, he was still ‘technically a
priest’ and was provided accommodation by the diocese.
While child-sex abuse allegations
continue to rock the Catholic Church globally, the Church
itself has been slow to acknowledge and redress victims.
Following another recommendation by the Child Abuse Royal
Commission, the Federal Government set up the National Redress
Scheme to provides support to people who have experienced
institutional child sexual abuse.
The Scheme started on 1 July 2018, and will run for 10
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