Church head ‘moved’ abusive priests, says Warrnambool detective

THE former head of the Catholic Church in western Victoria knew about sex abusing priests but just kept moving them, the Warrnambool detective who led two investigations into clergy abuse has revealed.

Detective Senior Constable Colin Ryan headed the investigations into former Catholic priests Paul David Ryan and Brian Coffey which led to convictions. 

He has also passed on a large amount of information about the activities of the two paedophiles to the state parliamentary inquiry.

Detective Senior Constable Ryan said his investigations  showed that Fr Ryan was moved by Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns when complaints were made about the priest.

“Bishop Mulkearns clearly moved Paul Ryan around following allegations of sexual misconduct,” he said.

“After Fr Ryan’s last placement at Ararat one victim committed suicide. 

“The mother and family of that victim has every reason to be upset and disappointed by the lack of action by the Catholic Church and Bishop Mulkearns which led to the victim being abused and then taking his own life.”

He said Paul Ryan had his term in an Adelaide seminary terminated and the principal of the seminary recommended to Bishop Mulkearns that Ryan was not suitable to receive sponsorship for entry into the priesthood in Victoria.

However, Ryan was admitted to Corpus Christi and went on to abuse children.

“It has been shown how the church and in particular Bishop Mulkearns handled allegations of sexual misconduct — those at the centre of allegations were moved,” Detective Senior Constable Ryan said. “Bishop Mulkearns clearly knew what was going on but did not act to stop the abuse.”

Detective Senior Constable Ryan said Bishop Mulkearns had only escaped potential criminal prosecution on a technicality through the police’s 1995 Arcadia Inquiry.

“Bishop Mulkearns clearly knew these abuses were going on but he could not be charged with the then offence of misprision of a felony because while it could be shown the bishop knew about abuse it could not be proved he knew about a felony — which was rape or buggery,” he said.

“Since Arcadia I have conducted investigations into the activities of Paul Ryan and Brian Coffey which showed that Bishop Mulkearns was aware of what those men were doing and that’s why he moved them.”

Detective Senior Constable Ryan said Fr Ryan was sent to the US where he also offended and the Ballarat diocese paid compensation to those victims.

“I totally agree with the submissions made by (Victoria Police) assistant commissioner Graham Ashton who could not recall a single example of the church coming forward to report a case of sexual abuse,” he said.

“Further Victorian Police advisor Patrick Tidmarsh was right on the money when he told the parliamentary inquiry that the Catholic Church lacked the motivation and ability to properly investigate complaints.”

Deputy Commissioner Ashton told the state parliamentary inquiry last month police had records of more than 2000 offences committed against 519 victims — yet the church had not reported a single offence to police.

athomson@standard.fairfax.com.au

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