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Friendly priest became pedophile 'monster'

AAP logoAAP 30/08/2016 By Rebekah Ison

For more than 40 years, Gerard McDonald has been living with "fear, shame and guilt" as a result of sickening sexual abuse at the hands of a notorious Catholic pedophile priest.

"Vincent Gerard Ryan was the monster of Merewether," Mr McDonald told media outside the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Newcastle on Wednesday.

"I want the shame and guilt to be put where it belongs, with the abusers and those who did nothing or lied to protect them."

Mr McDonald was 10 when he was abused twice a week for most of 1975 in Father Vincent Ryan's car, as the priest dropped him home from altar boy practice at St Joseph's in Merewether.

He told the commission that Ryan, who on one occasion performed oral sex on him and a group of other boys in the church vestry, told him "they won't believe you, because I'm a priest".

He said the priest would go from "friendly" and "charming" to "evil" and "calculating" when he removed his glasses before abuse.

"I came to dread him taking off those glasses," he said.

"He knew exactly what he was doing and he planned it well."

Boys who attended the school adjoining the church, including Mr McDonald, came forward about the abuse shortly before the end of the school year but Ryan was allowed to serve in the ministry for two decades before being arrested.

The commission has heard Ryan knelt at the feet of Monsignor Patrick Cotter, cried and admitted the abuse when confronted in 1975.

He was sent away to Melbourne, supposedly for treatment, but was allowed to return to the diocese the following year without any special restrictions, after having just one session.

Mr McDonald said he could not believe it when Ryan conducted a service at his high school two years after the abuse started.

"All I could think about was running to my mate's parents' place and grabbing the two biggest knives he had and killing Father Ryan," he told the commission.

"I feel guilty I didn't do it and he went on to abuse other boys."

Mr McDonald says the then-principal of St Joseph's school, Sister Margaret-Ann Geatches, told his teacher "don't listen to those boys" and "you'll never work in a Catholic school again" after the boys came forward.

Yells of "lies" could be heard from the gallery on Wednesday as the sister said she could not recall saying those things.

Mr McDonald, who was applauded after giving his evidence, says he has received death threats as a result of going public about his abuse.

"I want to speak for the children of the past, present and future," he told the media.

"I want the broader community to understand this evil and to work alongside us to prevent it ever happening again."

The commission has heard Ryan knew he was attracted to boys before becoming a priest. By 1997 he had been convicted of offences relating to 35 victims and pleaded guilty to extra charges this year.

Some of his victims have since committed suicide.

The hearing, which is examining how Maitland-Newcastle Catholic authorities responded to child sex abuse allegations, is expected to continue on Thursday.

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