Beach Men Want Jailed Priest to Be Charged Here

By Steven G. Vegh and Susan E. White
Virginian Pilot [Virginia Beach VA]
January 30, 2007

Two Virginia Beach men are pushing for local prosecution of an Australian Catholic priest in prison for child sexual abuse, saying he abused them in the late 1970s while serving at Star of the Sea parish.

The Rev. Paul David Ryan, 60, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in September by an Australian court. He pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault of two teenage boys in that country.

The two Virginia Beach men were teenagers at Star of the Sea parish school when Ryan was in Virginia.

The men spoke to The Virginian-Pilot late last year after learning of the Australian prosecution. They recently declined to comment further, saying they had been asked by Virginia Beach police not to talk publicly about their allegations. A police spokeswoman confirmed the department was investigating the men's abuse complaint.

The men had asked the newspaper not to disclose their names, and it is The Pilot's policy not to name alleged victims of sexual assault.

At least five priests have resigned or been expelled from ministry by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond since 2002 in connection with child abuse accusations. The diocese encompasses South Hampton Roads.

Ryan worked as an assistant priest at Star of the Sea during the 1977-78 and 1978-79 school years, according to Australian police documents.

Australian police interviewed the two men and one other former pupil at Star of the Sea last year as witnesses in the criminal investigation of Ryan.

The three told Australian investigators that Ryan performed sexual acts on them when they were 14 and 15 years old. The abuse is alleged to have occurred in the Star of the Sea rectory and in the home of one teen whose parents were away. The three former students said Ryan also provided them with alcohol and marijuana.

One of the two men who talked to The Pilot said Ryan abused him 12 times, while the other said he was abused once.

One of the men said he eventually reported the abuse to his family, who contacted the Rev. Paul T. Gaughan, the priest who at that time oversaw Star of the Sea.

Gaughan, now retired and living in Virginia Beach, said in an interview that Ryan was living in the Washington area at the time but had been helping conduct services at Star of the Sea.

"He was coming down from Catholic University to fill in, to get experience," Gaughan said. "I was not told of his problem before he started coming around here."

Ryan, who was ordained in Australia in 1976, had been sent by Catholic officials to the United States for treatment of homosexual behavior toward other seminary students, according to the Australian police investigation.

Gaughan said that after a teen's family reported the abuse to the parish, he expelled Ryan.

"I don't really want to talk about this guy. He's in Australia and if he's in jail, he's where he should be," Gaughan said.

"I was just wanting to put it all aside and forget about it," one of the men said. But he said the memories of abuse flooded back when he was in his 20s and he entered counseling.

He said he told Virginia Beach police about Ryan in the 1990s, but that investigators said they could not find the priest.

The man then contacted a lawyer, who contacted Catholic officials in the Diocese of Richmond. That diocese communicated with the Diocese of Ballarat in Australia, which had authority over Ryan.

The exchange ultimately ended with a legal settlement in 1995 in which the two men each received about $37,000, according to Detective Senior Constable Colin Ryan, an Australian investigator who is not related to the priest. The detective said information about the Virginia Beach men and the settlement were part of the Rev. Ryan's personnel file, which the Ballarat Diocese gave police last year.

The settlement stipulated that the payment was not an admission of any liability. In return, the men agreed not to make any civil claims against Ryan, the bishops in Richmond and Ballarat, Star of the Sea parish, Gaughan or either diocese.

The two men said the payment covered only a part of what they have spent on therapy over the years.

One man said his family was assured after Ryan's expulsion that the Australian priest would not be allowed further contact with children.

Instead, Ryan worked as a priest for years in Australia in posts that gave him access to children and teens, Detective Ryan said. The acts for which he was convicted took place in 1989 to 19 90 when he was a parish priest, according to Australian news reports.

The two local men said they only learned of Ryan's continued involvement with children after being contacted last year by Australian police who were investigating Ryan.

The other local man said he would not have signed the liability settlement if he had known Ryan had abused children after leaving Virginia.

The Rev. Thomas Shreve, vicar general of the Richmond Diocese, said he could not discuss whether the diocese had received complaints about Ryan. He also declined to say whether the diocese participated in a legal settlement with Ryan's self-described victims, or why Ryan left Star of the Sea.

The Australian police investigator said another person who claims to have been abused by Ryan in that country has come forward since the conviction was reported in newspapers there.

Reach Steven G. Vegh at (757) 446-2417 or

Reach Susan White at (757) 222-5114 or


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