OPINION: Father, please . . .  

OPINION: Father, please . . .  

DEAR Father Ryan,
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

I am a Herald columnist who has written a number of times about matters relating to your pedophilia and particularly my belief that diocesan leaders and clergy whose blind eye allowed you to prey on children for so many years should have joined you in the dock.

On Friday the Hunter learnt on reading this paper that the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has accepted that another priest looked on while you abused a young boy in the early 1970s. This man lodged a formal complaint and was paid compensation by the diocese a few months ago. There’s no reason I can see for a victim to invent the presence of a second priest.

The head of the diocese’s child protection and professional conduct unit, Helen Keevers, told the paper that the church had “completely accepted” that a second priest had been present during the assault. Ms Keevers says, though, that despite an investigation the diocese has not been able to establish the identity of the second priest.

That, Father Ryan, is why I’m writing. The man who lodged the complaint does not know the priest’s identity but you do.

Who was it?

Ms Keevers said the church had asked you in the past about whether other clergy were involved with you in sexual abuse but you had not given any information about other priests, a statement that suggests the church has not asked you as part of its investigation this time. I’ve not been able to clarify this with Ms Keevers.

And it’s uncertain from Ms Keevers’s responses to our reporter whether you said no other priests were involved or whether you simply declined to give any information about other priests.

You’re in a rare position to clarify.

Of course, disclosing the presence and identity of a second priest at the time you said you were being as forthcoming as your memory allowed may have prevented a pedophile committing more offences and may still. If all such disclosure can achieve is justice and a smoother path for victims it must be worthwhile.

In 1996 when three more victims came forward after you were sentenced to six years’ jail you admitted the additional offences and gave police details of more, offering this explanation of why you hadn’t disclosed all previously:

“I thought I’ve already hurt them, why should I interfere with their lives. It’s up to them. So I, I thought all the time up till I spoke to [my solicitor] yesterday probably the best was just to let ’em come forward. But this could happen the rest of my life and I couldn’t put up with that. So I’d like to mention the incidents as best I recall them as far back as I can remember.”

On your own account this second case against you moved from three complainants to 12, and as you pleaded guilty you asked the court to take into account offences against another 16 victims. This willing and damning disclosure suggested concern for your victims and genuine remorse and was a mitigating factor in the various courts that considered your sentence.

So it is puzzling that you’d continue to protect the identity of a cohort.

Is it a brotherhood thing, priests or pedophiles standing firm together?

Have you felt an obligation to protect the identity of other priests or men involved in pedophilia? Do you now?

It’s possible that you could hold that it is up to the victims to denounce their abuser, but that is hardly a recanting of your abuse of children. Indeed, if the cohort was Father Jim Fletcher your disclosure a few years ago may well have spared one young man the trauma of a contested trial a year ago, a trial that saw Father Fletcher jailed for 10 years for the sex assault of that young man as a boy.

You and Father Fletcher knew each other well at the time the diocese accepts that this latest victim was assaulted, and Ms Keevers said the cohort could have been Father Fletcher or one of several other priests.

Given Father Fletcher’s denials, discredited denials, I see no point in asking him if he was the cohort. Given your strong claim to full disclosure I ask you.

Yours sincerely.

Sent to Father Vince Ryan, Junee Correctional Centre, PO Box 197, Junee 2663.

Vincent Ryan