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Father Vincent Ryan’s child-sex crimes

The Catholic church’s child sexual abuse is a problem that neither the state nor the church can fully address. Neither can they prevent it. But the church also shows its inability to recognize the problem, as evidenced, for example, by the fact that Father Vincent Ryan, who died in 2022, has never been removed from the priesthood.

Who was Father Vincent Ryan?

Father Vincent Gerard Ryan was born in 1938. He entered the seminary before being ordained, and in 1962 he was chosen to finish his studies at the Propaganda College (Rome).

Vincent Ryan was ordained in 1966. Ryan was appointed secretary to Bishop John Toohey at Maitland Cathedral after his return to Australia on August 19, 1970.

He famously became the first Catholic priest in the Newcastle, NSW region to be charged with child sexual abuse. He was arrested in 1995 and finally given a 14-year prison term.

Where and When Did He Commit His Crimes?

Institutional child sexual abuse took place between the 1970s and the 1990s. Father Vincent Ryan served in Cessnock, Maitland, and the Junction (diocese of Maitland-Newcastle) parishes.

Kath Edwards` criminal complaints

Kath Edwards was known as CNA during the Royal Commission investigation.

She claimed that her two sons (ages 6 and 8) had experienced institutional sexual abuse committed by Father Ryan.

Her sons themselves told it to her in 1974. The parents reported this information to Monsignor Cotter at the presbytery (he was the head priest of St. Joseph Parish, where Father Ryan held the position of assistant priest).

Kath Edwards charged Father Ryan with touching children’s intimate body parts. He denied those accusations. Unfortunately, Monsignor Cotter took no significant action to protect the interests of the children.

New child sexual abuse complaints in 1975

The principal of St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Merewether, Sister Margaret-Anne Geatches, received complaints in 1975 from several boys about sexual abuse by Father Ryan. They reported that he touched them and pointed at their crotch area.

That same year, St. Joseph’s 5th-grade students Gerard McDonald and Scott Hallett reported to teacher Chris Hallinan that they had been sexually assaulted several times by Father Vincent Ryan while they were altar boys.

Sister Margaret-Anne Geatche witnessed the conversation and reported the allegations to Sister Evelyn Woodward.

Sister Woodward brought the information to Monsignor Cotter, the Vicar Capitular then.

She told him to immediately remove Father Ryan from the children and send him for psychiatric help. She suggested Dr Peter Evans, a qualified psychiatrist from the Order of Franciscan Friars. Monsignor Cotter agreed.

At the same time, the children told their parents about the sexual abuse.

Monsignor Cotter eventually met with Father Ryan, who confessed his wrongdoing, wept, and kneeled.

The Royal Commission concluded that Monsignor Cotter failed to respond adequately to allegations of institutional child sexual abuse. The allegations were also improperly documented and not reflected in the diocesan file. In doing so, Father Ryan was merely referred to Dr Evans and removed from the parish. That is not enough. The children were left unprotected.

Father Ryan returned to the diocese in 1976 and had no restrictions in dealing with children.

The Trials of Father Vincent Ryan

On October 11, 1995, Father Ryan was arrested.

He was charged with five counts of homosexual intercourse with a man between the ages of 10 and 18 and six counts of indecent assault on a man. He pleaded guilty to all charges in 1996 and was given a six-year sentence. The court dismissed the appeal of the Attorney General.

In 1996, Father Ryan was put on trial for the second time. The court sentenced him to only four years in prison. The survivors were disappointed.

In March 1997, Ryan was charged with 38 counts of sexual assault. This fact brought the total number of new crimes to 44. The reason for the latest charges may have been dissatisfaction with a too-lenient sentence. More victims found the strength to go to the police and tell their stories. The victims were between 7 and 11 years old during the crime.

In June of that year, Ryan was charged with nine more crimes. So the total number of crimes committed from 1972 to 1994 reached 53 against 26 children. The age of children who were sexually assaulted was between 6 to 14 years old.

As a result, his prison sentence increased to 16 years.

In 2019, Vincent Ryan was convicted of indecent assault on two more of his victims, ages 10 to 12, in the 1970s and the 1990s. The court sentenced him to an additional three years and three months in prison. The parole period was 14 months.

The Recent History of Father Vincent Ryan

Due to good prospects for rehabilitation, Ryan got his freedom in 2020. But Father Vincent Ryan died at age 84 in 2022. The Vatican did not revoke Father Vincent Gerard Ryan’s priestly status.

Survivors of child sexual abuse, from which the church has failed to protect them, experience persistent mental health problems in adulthood. Alcohol and drug addiction are not uncommon. Some even commit suicide, as happened in 1996 when a boy jumped off a cliff in Newcastle Beach but never told his parents about what happened in Newcastle Parish.

But survivors can still obtain justice and fair compensation for their suffering. You can use the opportunity to state your claims to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle despite the priest’s death.

Koffels` lawyers will guide you every step to obtaining compensation for the Catholic church’s child sexual abuse, respecting principles of confidentiality, and acting in your best interest.

If you or someone you know would like to talk to one of our historical sexual abuse specialists, for free and in confidence, about your legal options, please feel free to either complete the form below with the best way and the best time to contact you, or you can call us on 02 9283 5599.

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