Former Virginia Beach priest charged with sexually assaulting a minor decades ago

The Virginian Pilot/May 4, 2021

By Jane Harper

A former priest who served at a Virginia Beach Catholic Church decades ago has been indicted by a grand jury investigating clergy abuse in Virginia.

Fr. Paul David Ryan is charged with two felony counts of forced carnal knowledge with a minor, according to a news release issued Tuesday by Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. He’s currently in custody in Australia and awaiting extradition to Virginia, the release said.

The assault is alleged to have occurred sometime between 1979 and 1980 during a church-sanctioned ski trip at Massanutten Resort in Rockingham County. Ryan was an assistant priest at Star of the Sea Catholic Church and parish school at the Oceanfront at the time.

Ryan is accused of assaulting the minor twice at a house at the resort where the two were staying. The release did not say if the alleged victim was male or female, or what the youth’s age was at the time.

Ryan came to Star of the Sea in 1979 and worked there for less than a year, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.

“Ryan had already been named on the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s list of priests against whom credible and substantiated allegations had been made and was published Feb. 13, 2019,” the statement said. “The Catholic Diocese of Richmond has fully cooperated with the ongoing clergy abuse investigation by the Virginia Attorney General since it started in October 2018 and will continue to do so.”

Ryan, who is Australian and was ordained there in 1976, was sent by Catholic officials to the United States for treatment of homosexual behavior he’d exhibited toward other seminary students, according to a 2007 Pilot story about another sexual assault case concerning him.

Two men who talked to The Pilot then said Ryan had abused them while they were students at Star of the Sea Catholic School in the late 1970s. The men said they were 14 and 15 at the time and that the abuse occurred at the church rectory and at a home where one of them lived. They also said Ryan gave them alcohol and marijuana.

In 2006, Ryan pleaded guilty in Australia to five counts of indecent assault of two teenage boys and was sentenced to 18 months, the story said. That abuse reportedly occurred in the late 1980s, about a decade after the Virginia incident related to his current charges.

In 2018, Herring launched an investigation into child sex abuse at Virginia’s Catholic dioceses, and whether leadership may have covered up or abetted any such crimes. Ryan’s case is the second that has resulted from the investigation to date, the release said.

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