Pedophile priest jailed

The Herald Sun, Australia/September 9, 2006
By Geoff Wilkinson

A disgraced parish priest jailed yesterday for sexually assaulting altar boys in western Victoria had previously abused boys in the United States.

The Ballarat diocese paid compensation to at least two US victims after the Catholic Church in that country held Australian church authorities responsible for his behaviour.

Paul David Ryan, 59, was sent to the US for counselling and treatment because of concerns over his behaviour with other students while still in training for the priesthood at Corpus Christi seminary.

He returned to Victoria after being exposed as a pedophile in the US and, despite those offences, was appointed parish priest at Penshurst in 1989.

Ryan pleaded guilty in Warrnambool Magistrates' Court yesterday to five counts of indecently assaulting two teenage boys at Penshurst in 1989-90.

Magistrate Michael Stone sentenced him to 18 months' jail, with a minimum non-parole period of 12 months.

One of Ryan's Victorian victims and the mother of a third -- who later committed suicide -- were in court.

The third victim was assaulted at Ararat after Ryan resigned from his position at Penshurst in 1991, went to the US for more treatment and was sent to the Ararat parish after he returned.

Two men assaulted by Ryan in 1978-79 when he was a parish priest at Virginia Beach, on the US east coast, said yesterday the Catholic Church was culpable.

"The blood of this victim shall forever tarnish the church and the men who covered up this psychopath's pattern of behaviour," one said.

The other said the church "should be ashamed of itself for harbouring and hiding (him)".

Their lawyer, Brian Donnelly, said there had been no denials by the church and confidential payouts had been made to the two men.

Ryan first struck trouble with church authorities when he was asked to leave an Adelaide seminary where he started training but, despite the concerns of church leaders, was ordained at St Patrick's Cathedral in Ballarat in 1976.

Prosecutor Sgt Sandra Skilton told the court yesterday one of the Penshurst victims was assaulted the day before his 16th birthday.

Sgt Skilton said Ryan showed the boy a videotape containing sex scenes from various movies, made him take a bath with him and massaged and masturbated him on several occasions.

She said on all occasions the boy was in fear of Ryan.

Ryan's lawyer, Julie Sutherland, told the court he had been a desperately lonely man with no outlet for his feelings and his homosexuality.

Ms Sutherland said Ryan had gained a significant insight into his behaviour while studying psychology in the US.

She said he had turned his life around and deserved credit for his "astonishingly frank record of interview", his early guilty plea and the fact he was truly remorseful.

Ms Sutherland told the magistrate Ryan had no criminal convictions.

Mr Stone rejected a suggestion Ryan had genuine friendships with the Victorian victims and said his behaviour had been "classic grooming of young people for sexual pleasure".

"You were in a position of trust. You grossly abused that trust," Mr Stone said. He said Ryan would be a registered sex offender for the next 15 years.

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