Hunter child sex survivor’s challenge to Catholics, and Australians, in first episode of ABC’s Revelation

Revelation Pope Ryan Priest

Title: Hunter child sex survivor’s challenge to Catholics, and Australians, in first episode of ABC’s Revelation

Author: Joanne McCarthy

Publisher: Newcastle Herald

Date: 16MAR2020

“It’s saying ‘Here you go devout Catholics, here’s the devil holding up the body of Christ because your church thinks that’s okay. Are you cool with that?'” said Scott Hallett, one of three Hunter men whose shocking sexual abuse by Ryan at a Merewether church in 1975 forms the backdrop of the first episode of the ABC series Revelation.

The three part series which starts on Tuesday focuses on the Hunter in the first two episodes, and includes interviews by ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson with Ryan on Tuesday, and next week jailed St John of God Brother Bernard McGrath who committed crimes against boys at Morriset’s Kendall Grange.

“He (Ryan) should have been defrocked back in the 1990s when he first went to jail but he wasn’t, and he was charged again, and charged again, and he’s still able to say mass. He’s got those communion hosts from somewhere,” Mr Hallett said.

“That just shows the Catholic Church has done absolutely nothing to change the culture that allowed these crimes to happen. And why aren’t Australians demanding they change?

“The message from me to Catholics is I’m not attacking your religion or God, but there are people who’ve hijacked your church and they’re still in power, and they’re still making excuses even after the royal commission.”

Revelation includes footage of Ryan in court in 2019 before he was convicted and jailed for sexually abusing two altar boys at Merewether in the 1970s and Cessnock in the 1980s, in his fourth round of convictions since 1996 for sexually abusing 33 boys, some as young as six. It also includes footage from his ordination in Rome in 1966 along with George Pell and Ryan’s home film playing with children in Hunter Catholic school playgrounds.

Revelation’s first episode also features Hunter priest Bill Burston questioning whether Ryan’s 2019 convictions were just and the motives of the two men who reported Ryan’s crimes against them as young children. Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright allowed Father Burston to retire in 2015 after damning commission of inquiry findings against the priest over his knowledge of child sex allegations involving other priests.

On Saturday Bishop Wright, who was interviewed by Ms Ferguson but has not seen the first episode, issued a statement to all parishes in which he distanced himself from the series and expressed concern that the documentary had taken a “sensationalist approach”.

“I agreed to be interviewed for the documentary in the belief that it was intended to be a serious, in depth and considered exploration of the child sexual abuse crisis in our church and what we have done and continue to do, to address those truths,” Bishop Wright said.

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