Ballarat compensates US victims of another jailed priest

The Victorian Diocese of Ballarat has made confidential compensation payouts to at least two US victims of a former local priest who was jailed on Friday for indecent assaults on teenagers in Western Victoria.

Melbourne's Herald-Sun reports that Paul David Ryan, 59, was sent to the US for counselling and treatment because of concerns over his behaviour with other students while still in training for the priesthood at Corpus Christi seminary.

He returned to Victoria after being exposed as a pedophile in the US and, despite those offences, was appointed parish priest at Penshurst in 1989.

Mr Ryan pleaded guilty in Warrnambool Magistrates' Court last week to five counts of indecently assaulting two teenage boys at Penshurst in 1989-90.

Magistrate Michael Stone sentenced him to 18 months' jail, with a minimum non-parole period of 12 months.

One of Mr Ryan's Victorian victims and the mother of a third - who later committed suicide - were in court.

The third victim was assaulted at Ararat after Mr Ryan resigned from his position at Penshurst in 1991, went to the US for more treatment and was sent to the Ararat parish after he returned.

Two men assaulted by Mr Ryan in 1978-79 when he was a parish priest at Virginia Beach, on the US east coast, said yesterday the Church was culpable.

Mr Ryan first struck trouble with Church authorities when he was asked to leave an Adelaide seminary where he started training but, despite the concerns of Church leaders, was ordained at St Patrick's Cathedral in Ballarat in 1976.

Prosecutor Sgt Sandra Skilton said Mr Ryan showed one 16-year-old victim a videotape containing sex scenes from various movies, made him take a bath with him and massaged and masturbated him on several occasions.

Mr Ryan's lawyer, Julie Sutherland, said he had turned his life around and deserved credit for his "astonishingly frank record of interview", his early guilty plea and the fact he was truly remorseful.

The mother of Peter Watson, the victim who died, Helen Watson, told the Herald-Sun that her son, then a student at Marian College, Ararat, was never the same after arriving home after a night at the presbytery reeking of alcohol.

Her son later told her Mr Ryan showed blue movies to boys at the presbytery and gave them alcohol.

Although Ms Watson this year received a written apology from Bishop Peter Connors of the Ballarat diocese, she told the Herald-Sun that she can neither forgive nor forget.

"I've been a practising Catholic all my life, but I have totally lost my faith.

"I just have utter disbelief that the hierarchy of the church could actually send someone to another place knowing that he had the potential to commit a crime."

US Bishops emphasise seminarian celibacy training

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that the US Bishops Conference has issued a new program for training seminarians that reflects the church's toughened policy on clergy sex abuse.

The updated Program of Priestly Formation puts greater emphasis on the emotional and spiritual development of candidates for the Catholic priesthood, including helping seminarians better prepare for a life of celibacy.

The program also spells out that applicants with any record of sexually abusing minors will be rejected. In addition, the 98-page document states that seminaries must follow the guidelines of the Vatican on applicants "with same-sex experiences and/or inclinations."

The revised edition updates a 1992 program and has approval from the Vatican for five years.

Last November, the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document designed to keep men with "deep-seated" same-sex attraction out of the priesthood.

Pedophile priest jailed (Herald-Sun 9/9/06)
How a pedophile priest destroyed a boy's life (Sun-Herald, 11/9/06)
Abuse-Prevention Training Approved (Washington Post/AP 9/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Diocese of Ballarat
TFYQA - Stamp Out Clergy Abuse

New Church policy aims for abuse "never again" (CathNews, 4/9/06)
Ballarat Bishop accepts criticism in sex abuse case (CathNews, 15/8/06)
New controversies in sex abuse cases (CathNews, 14/8/06)
Former priest pleads guilty to 35 more charges (CathNews, 8/8/06)
More charges for jailed priest (CathNews, 8/7/05)
Prosecutors block child sex charges against ex-priest (CathNews, 17/8/04)
Pedophile priest may face more charges (CathNews, 14/12/04)

11 Sep 2006