Tim and Helen Watson
A former Ballarat Catholic bishop repeatedly and knowingly moved a paedophile priest around his diocese and overseas, where he constantly found new targets, the mother of one victim told the Victorian abuse inquiry on Friday, reports The Age.
Helen Watson's explosive testimony to the state inquiry came as the parliamentary committee left Melbourne for the first time and heard from victims in Ballarat, where up to 50 victims are believed to have taken their own lives.
One of them was Peter Watson, abused at 15 by Father Paul David Ryan, and dead by his own hand at 24. Before her evidence, her husband Tim at her side, Mrs Watson told Fairfax media: ''For years I was in shock, and I couldn't be angry at anyone. Now, I have the anger and can be a strong voice for victims. I've got fire in my belly this afternoon.''
She told the inquiry that each time his abuse of children in the Ballarat diocese became known, Ryan would be sent to the US, and when allegations surfaced there, he would be sent back to Australia.
He was sent to the US seven times, and in 1993 was considered beyond help by a program in Mexico for clergy sex offenders.
Ballarat was home to the notorious paedophile ring operating at St Alipius Primary School of Christian Brothers Robert Best, Stephen Farrell, Edward Dowlan and Gerald Fitzgerald, plus priest Gerald Ridsdale.
All were convicted except Fitzgerald, who died while being investigated.
Quoting police evidence given at Ryan's 2006 trial in Warrnambool, Mrs Watson said the bishop she referred to was well aware of Ryan's offences in Australia and the US. Money was sent from Ballarat to the US for financial settlements for two of Ryan's victims there - $25,000 each.
Ryan was ordained in Ballarat in 1976, and there was an allegation of child sex abuse in his first week. He was first sent to the US in 1977 and again in 1979, returning after three child sex abuse allegations emerged.
Church keeping community informed about Inquiry
The Church is keeping the community informed about the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into child abuse through its website, www.facingthetruth.org.au. Readers can subscribe to receive updates including Fact Sheets and FAQs.
The Catholic Church in Victoria supports those brave victims who come forward to speak at the Inquiry, and also supports and respects the privacy of those who choose not to report their complaint to the police. The Church hopes the Inquiry will encourage other victims to come forward.
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