Father Paul D. Ryan
Diocese of Richmond
Assigned as follows:
- 1976-1977: St Patrick’s Cathedral (Ballarat, Australia)
- 1979-1980: Star of the Sea (Virginia Beach, VA)
- (Warrnambool, Australia)
- (Terang, Australia)
- (Penshurst, Australia)
- (Ararat, Australia)
Summary of Abuse Allegations Against Father Paul D. Ryan:
According to media reports, Father Paul David Ryan was ordained in Australia in 1976. There was an allegation of child sex abuse made during his first week. Ryan was shuffled from parish to parish across southwest Australia under former Bishop of Ballarat, abusing children wherever he went. He was sent to the US for counseling and treatment in 1977 and again in 1979, returning after child sex abuse allegations emerged. He has been arrested for child sexual abuse three times since 2006. He was removed from priesthood in 1993.
According to court records, Ryan would typically invite boys to his parish house, where he would show them videos containing sex scenes. He would offer alcohol (and, in the United States, marijuana) to the boys before undressing them and mauling them – in the lounge room or in bed or while having a bath.
Throughout his career, he reportedly was sent to the US seven times. He returned to ministry each time and was permitted to work at the Star of the Sea parish in Virginia Beach, VA. In 1993, he was considered beyond help by a program in Mexico for clergy sex offenders.
The Dioceses of Australia and Richmond admitted paying settlements to at least two American men who alleged that Father Ryan sexually abused them from 1978 to 1979. He also abused at least three minors in Australia from 1989 to 1990. He was removed from ministry in 1996.
One of his 15-year-old victims from 1991 committed suicide at age 24 in 1999. The victim did not tell his parents about Ryan’s sexual abuse, and his parents were puzzled why Peter’s personality suddenly changed. He became a disturbed teenager, with low self-esteem. He got into drugs and he abandoned sports. By age 18, he was leading a transient life, was unable to work, and tried several times to kill himself, to which he finally succeeded.
“The blood of this victim shall forever tarnish the church and the men who covered up this psychopath’s pattern of behavior,” one of the U.S. victims said.
The dead boy’s mother said she believed her son was just one of many unknown victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. “Hopefully, Peter’s tragedy will encourage other victims of sexual abuse to find the courage to come forward and speak up against pedophile priests and cover-ups by the Catholic Church,” she said.
In April 2006, Father Ryan was charged with indecent assault of two teenage boys at Penshurst in 1989-1990 at Penshurst, in western Victoria, in 1991. In September 2006, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in jail in Australia. Ryan was then registered sex offender for the next 15 years. As part of an ongoing investigation at this time, Australian police obtained information from several ex-students of a school he worked at in Virginia Beach from June 1979 to April 1980. It was discovered that Father Ryan was sexually abusing boys at the Star of the Sea parish school in 1979.
One boy was in 7th and 8th Grade, aged 14, stated that Ryan plied him with alcohol and marijuana and took the boy to bed, where he sexually abused him. Two other boys at the same school stated that Ryan held “counselling” and “religious instruction” sessions with the two boys (when they were aged 14 to 15) and sexually abused them.
One of the Victim’s wrote in a letter to his local diocese in 1995: “Although the general population of the church [at Star of the Sea parish] was shielded from knowing the specific details for Fr Ryan’s removal, it was more or less common knowledge among certain known victims and their families.”
Ryan’s Australian superiors exchanged letters with his U.S. supervisors throughout 1977-1980 and, presumably, his offences in the U.S. were reported back to Australia.
In 2019, after Ryan (aged 70) pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three more victims, he was jailed again in Melbourne, Australia. The charges were for the indecent assault of a child under the age of 16 in Warrnambool in 1981, the oral sexual penetration of a teenager at a school camp in 1985, and an indecent act with a child under the age of 16 in Ararat in 1992. Ryan was sentenced to 26 months in jail. With time already served, Ryan was eligible for release after 13 months.
In May 2021, Ryan once again has been charged with sexual assault of a minor in Virginia Beach after Virginia authorities conducted an investigation. According to a release from Attorney General Mark Herring’s office, a Rockingham County jury indicted Ryan on two felony counts of carnal knowledge by force of a minor under the age of 18.
Media reports say that the abuse occurred between 1979 and 1980 when he was assigned at Star of the Sea and its affiliated Star of the Sea School in Virginia Beach. The reports say that Ryan took the victim to Massanutten Resort and sexually assaulted the victim twice.
Ryan, who has been back in Australia, is currently in custody and in the process of being extradited back to Virginia again.
In February 2019, Father Ryan‘s name appeared publicly on the Diocese of Richmond’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Richmond. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Richmond, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Richmond now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Call us at 888-283-9922 or send an email to [email protected] to discuss your options today.