THE Catholic Church has declined to comment on conflicting stories surrounding convicted Hunter pedophile priests Vincent Ryan and James Fletcher.
The Herald reported on November 4 that in settling a compensation claim the diocese had accepted that another clergyman looked on when Father Ryan abused a young boy in the early 1970s.
Diocese child protection and professional conduct unit manager Helen Keevers was reported as saying the church “completely accepted” the victim’s allegations.
She said the church had investigated the victim’s story.
Though the identity of the second clergyman might never be known, it could have been Fletcher or several other priests.
In a letter published in the Herald on Saturday, Ryan denied that Fletcher, any other priest, adult or lay person was involved in his offences.
Ryan said police were the only ones to interview him about his abusive behaviour and called for an explanation/apology from the diocese for Ms Keevers’s statements and an apology from The Herald.
On Sunday, Singleton parish priest Matthew Muller told his congregation during Mass in St Catherine’s Church, Greta, that The Herald’s reporting on the matter was incorrect.
Father Muller said Ms Keevers had told The Herald the wrong thing or had been misquoted.
He did not say whether all, or which parts of Ms Keevers’s statements were wrong.
Father Muller asked parishioners to write down their opinions on the situation and give them to him next Sunday so he could better understand the community’s feelings and respond appropriately.
The Herald could not obtain comment yesterday from Father Muller or Ms Keevers.
On November 4, Ms Keevers indicated to a Herald journalist the report in that day’s newspaper was accurate and balanced.
A spokeswoman for the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese said late yesterday that, after legal advice, no comment would be made.
The diocese wanted to consult its community and a considered public response was possible in several weeks, she said.
Ryan is serving a 20-year jail term for 53 offences on Hunter boys between 1972 and 1991.
Fletcher was sentenced this year to 10 years for the assault of a Hunter boy.
The Herald, November 4, 2005, page 1
The Herald, November 4, 2005, page 2