Crime and courts

Va.Charges Former Catholic Priest With Molesting a Minor Decades ago

By Maria-Paula

An Australian ex-Catholic priest and serial molester has been indicted by a jury investigating clergy abuse in Virginia and charged with two felony counts of sexually assaulting minors in 1979 and 1980.

Two people went public with their claims of abuse by the priest in 2007, but no charges were filed until the office of the Attorney General Mark Herring (D) took the findings to a jury last month.

Paul David Ryan, 72, recently served his second jail sentence of 18 months in Australia for sexual assaults he committed against young boys in Victoria when he pleaded guilty to 5 counts of indecently assaulting two teenage boys in Australia in 2006. A national outcry over Catholic clergy sexual abuse in Australia led to his second arrest for 17 months in July 2019 for sexual crimes he committed in the 1980s after he left Virginia.

The cases emerged after victims contacted a national Catholic sex abuse commission.

Star of the Sea Catholic School victims’ abuses is said to have occurred during a fabricated church-sponsored ski visit to Massanutten Resort in Rockingham County, at the church, and at a home where one of them lived. Ryan was an assistant priest and faculty counselor at Star of the Sea, Catholic Church, and parish at Oceanfront where he worked for less than a year from 1979. During separate instances, he arranged for private times where he allegedly committed oral sodomy on one of the boys, the prosecution said. They said he also gave them alcohol and marijuana.

His seniors repeatedly sent him to the US for sex and substance abuse counseling where he was assigned to minister to American children despite complaints about him even before his ordination in 1976. The commission heard that the former priest, who is in custody in Australia awaiting extradition to Virginia, was one among seven Catholic priests or brothers from a Victorian diocese who were moved from parish to parish during their years of service as complaints arose about their conduct.

Two of the victims reported the abuse to the Virginia Beach priest in charge who went ahead to expel Ryan from his church. One of the boys also allegedly spoke to the Richmond diocese as well as the Virginia Beach police about Ryan within the mid-1990s. There is no clarity on any action that might have been taken against him by the civil authorities within that period.

Claims also emerged that the two Virginia victims reached a legal agreement for payment of about $37,000 each according to an Australian investigator. The settlement required an agreement for them not to make civil claims against Ryan, the bishops in Australia or Virginia, and the dioceses of Star of the Sea parish. By Tuesday, the victims’ lawyer couldn’t be reached for an explanation.

After Scott Asalone, a former cleric in Purcellville awaiting trial in Loudoun County on a felony charge of sexual association with a minor, Ryan is the second former Catholic priest indicted in Virginia since Herring (D) launched investigations in 2018 into the sexual assault of youngsters by Catholic priests.

“Their righteous voices impacted change — three of the four jury reforms recommended are now law in Pennsylvania, 20 states have also passed our reforms, and 14 states began their own investigations into clergy abuse, as well as the Department of Justice,” said Shapiro.

Becky Ianni, the director of Virginia offices of SNAP which is an advocacy body fighting against clergy abuse mentioned that survivors like her found the charges satisfying.

“It shows the AG’s office is actively investigating. It’s not like you call a clergy hotline, and it goes into black hole. This tells victims out there: ‘No matter how long this takes, you can find justice, at least in Virginia.’ It’s important that people know to go ahead and report; it doesn’t matter how long it has been.” She said.

The Richmond Diocese said it has been cooperating with the Attorney general’s office since investigations began. Ryan who was excommunicated in 1993 is listed amongst the priests of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond whose credibility and recognized allegations had been made and published on February 13, 2019.

Anyone with information about such cases is requested to call the state clergy abuse hotline at 1-833-454-9064 or visit http://www.VirginiaClergyHotline.com for more information.

 




 

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