Australian Catholic priest facing new charges in Virginia; SNAP urges victims to come forward

According to the Virgina Attorney General’s Office, an Australian Catholic priest with a prior conviction is in the process of being extradited back to Virginia to face charges of child sexual abuse in this country. We encourage anyone who was sexually abused by a clergyman in Virginia to make a report to the Attorney General.

We often hear of an abusive priest transferred to another parish within the diocese where they work, or they may be re-assigned to another diocese. However, in the case of Fr. Paul Ryan, Australian Catholic officials took it one step further. The cleric, ordained in 1976, was sent to the United States for the treatment of "homosexual behaviors towards seminary students." A complaint that the clergyman had abused a minor were apparently never passed along to Catholic officials in the United States.

Fr. Ryan worked as an assistant priest at Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Virginia Beach between 1977-1979. During that time, the cleric is accused of abusing the two men fighting for the clergyman's return to face new charges in Virginia. The assaults were apparently reported to the Church at the time, and Fr. Ryan was expelled from the parish.

One of the two Virginia Beach survivors also said that after Fr. Ryan's dismissal from Star of the Sea Parish and his return to Australia, his family was assured that the priest would not be allowed further contact with children. However, instead Catholic officials in Australia followed the deceitful practices with which we are all too familiar and gave the cleric a parish assignment with access to young people.

Sadly, this move resulted in more young boys being subject to the clergyman's abuse between 1989-1990. In September of 2020, Fr. Ryan was convicted of five counts of indecent assault of two Australian victims from that time period. He is currently serving an 18-month sentence in that country.

The two men from the Virginia case only learned of Fr. Ryan's continued access to children and teenagers after Australian Investigators contacted them regarding the abuse case in that country.

We applaud the courage and bravery of all of the survivors of Fr. Ryan for coming forward and seeing that justice is served both abroad and here in the United States. Not surprisingly to us, the Diocese of Richmond refused to say whether it had received complaints about Fr. Ryan, whether the diocese participated in a legal settlement with the priest's Virginia accusers, or why the clergyman left Star of the Sea, apparently attempting to distance itself from this case, despite the fact that Fr. Ryan's name is included on the its list of abusers.  

This case shows that no matter how long ago your abuse took place there is a chance for justice and you should report these crimes to the police. We are thankful that the Virginia Attorney’s General office has created a clergy abuse hotline and are actively investigating cases of abuse. We urge other survivors in Virginia to report to the Attorneys Generals office. If you need help and support to do so, please reach out to our Virginia State Leader, Becky Ianni  (703-801-6044, [email protected]) or to our other volunteer leaders in the state.

CONTACT: Becky Ianni, SNAP Virginia (703-801-6044, [email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is      


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