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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Helen Gregory

'Deliberate untruth': anger mounts for Vince Ryan abuse survivors over diocese's silence

Vincent Ryan.

THE DIOCESE of Maitland-Newcastle said the late Bishop Bill Wright "offered his opinion to the Pope" about what should happen with convicted paedophile Vincent Ryan's priesthood, but the diocese has declined to provide any further detail about this correspondence, despite the subsequent deaths of both men.

Anger is mounting about how the diocese has responded to the April 13 death of Ryan, who was jailed twice for a combined period of 15 years and 11 months for sexually abusing more than 35 boys.

The Newcastle Herald reported that Clergy Abused Network chairperson Robert O'Toole told abuse survivors about Ryan's death after receiving the news from Diocesan Administrator Father Greg Barker last week.


The survivors want answers about why the diocese didn't tell the community about Ryan's death, why it hasn't contacted them since and why Ryan was never laicised or defrocked.

Detective Sergeant Kristi Faber confirmed on Tuesday the diocese had not informed or made contact with Strike Force Georgiana - which investigates historic child sexual abuse cases - about Ryan's death.

A diocesan spokeswoman said the Pope has authority to remove a priest from the clerical state on advice from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). She said Bishop Wright, who died last year, "petitioned the CDF following Mr Ryan's conviction in 2016 and again following his 2019 convictions".

"On both occasions the CDF were provided with the presiding justices' judgements and sentencing remarks and other relevant information.

"As part of these submissions the Bishop offered his opinion to the Pope as to what should occur with Ryan's priesthood.

"As advised by Bishop Wright in 2019, he would not make any comment on the submissions as he chose not to risk appearing to attempt publicly influencing the Holy See."

The Herald subsequently asked the diocese on Tuesday why it didn't petition the CDF after Ryan's first convictions and jail term in 1996; for the specific dates on which Bishop Wright petitioned the CDF; to provide the Bishop's correspondence with the CDF and on what basis the 2016 petition was rejected.

The Herald asked how long the CDF had to consider a petition; if a priest could be defrocked posthumously and if the diocese was considering petitioning the CDF again.

The Herald asked whether Ryan was given a funeral; if it was a funeral for a priest; who led the Mass and where Ryan was buried.

The spokeswoman said it would not be adding to the statement it had already provided, which had included that Ryan's "remains were dealt with respectfully but privately and without ceremony" and the diocese "has no further comment regarding his death".

The statement had also said support was available to survivors and their families, including through Healing and Support (Zimmerman Service).

"The Diocese has, is and will continue to acknowledge the shameful aspects of its history where children suffered abuse and some of its leaders failed to protect them from harm," it had said.

"The pain and damage caused is current each day for some survivors and their families."

Critics said the diocese statement was "carefully crafted" to once again minimise the impact of abuse on survivors and their families.

They have taken particular exception to the diocese's reference to pain and damage being "current each day for some survivors and their families".

Stephen Murray, a survivor who has met some of Ryan's victims, described the statement as "aggressive" and "contemptuous of the damage done to hundreds of children".

"That is a very very carefully crafted sentence," Mr Murray said.

"They are sending a signal to the community - they are still in full minimising mode. It is such a cold, deliberate, diminishing comment.

"I've met hundreds of survivors. I've seen them in psychiatric wards, in support groups and I've met them in the street and I haven't found one yet that isn't suffering profoundly.

"I've met people who I've witnessed being abused and who've said 'nothing happened to me' but their lives are falling apart.

"I was in the top stream and these are all very, very clever people and they're just struggling to keep their head above water, and they're the ones that aren't dead.

"This is a deliberate untruth. It drives survivors mad, it drives them to hospital in fact."

The Herald has confirmed Ryan was not buried among priests at Sandgate Cemetery or with his parents at East Maitland.

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