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Written by a Broken Rites Australia researcher.

Father Gerald Ridsdale's life of crime and the church's cover-up. Background article

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how the Catholic Church shuffled a paedophile priest, Father Gerald Ridsdale, from parish to parish for three decades while he committed sexual crimes against children. Broken Rites has been researching Ridsdale since May 1993, when he went to court for his first sentencing, accompanied by a bishop as his support person. Broken Rites began supporting Ridsdale's victims, resulting in five more court cases for Ridsdale between 1994 and 2020. More victims (now middle-aged) are still contracting the police about incidents from many years ago, and therefore Ridsdale (still in jail) is having his jail time increased. In October 2022, after Ridsdale pleaded guilty regarding two more of his victims, a court added two more years to Ridsdale's current jail sentence. In 2023, he pleaded guilty regarding yet another victim and is awaiting sentence for this one also.  (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 03 April 2023.)

The church covered up Father Vincent Ryan's child-sex crimes, thus giving him access to more victims

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how Catholic Church leaders knowingly protected a pedophile priest, Father Vincent Gerard Ryan. Ryan's superiors (in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in New South Wales) knew that he was sexually assaulting boys in his parishes. But the church concealed Ryan's crimes from the police and kept him in the ministry for twenty years, giving him access to new victims. Ryan has already been serving time in jail for some of his crimes but on 21 July 2020 (aged 82) he was released from jail, and the bishop's office confirmed that the Vatican is allowing Father Ryan to retain his priestly status. Father Ryan died in May 2022, aged 84, with the church STILL regarding him as "reverend". (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 31 May 2022.)

Full story: The church harboured this pedophile Marist Brother but eventually he was jailed

This Broken Rites article reveals how the Catholic Church harboured a child-sex abuser, Marist Brother Gerard Joseph McNamara, teaching in Catholic schools, for four decades until eventually some of his victims began speaking (separately) to the Victoria Police child-protection detectives. When the police finally charged McNamara regarding the first batch of these victims, the Marists enthusiastically supported McNamara and ignored the victims. But Broken Rites supported the victims — and in 2004-2005 McNamara pleaded guilty to this first batch of victims and was convicted. This prompted more of McNamara's former students to contact the detectives. In 2016, McNamara pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two more of his victims, resulting in another conviction. For each of these convictions (to 2016), he was given a suspended sentence. Those court cases prompted more of his victims to contact the police; therefore, on 3 September 2018, McNamara was jailed after he pleaded guilty regarding five more victims, and on 15 March 2020 (aged 82) he was given more jail time regarding five more of his victims. Meanwhile, despite his criminal convictions, the Marist organization still regards McNamara as a Marist Brother.(By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 15 May 2020.)

Church victims should report church crimes to the police detectives, as shown in the Father Gannon case

This article explains why Broken Rites Australia advises church-abuse victims to have a chat with child-protection detectives in the state police force. The Melbourne Catholic archdiocese ignored the child-sex crimes of Father Desmond Gannon throughout his long career. This cover-up ended in 1993 when the newly-formed Broken Rites began encouraging church-victims to consult the child-protection detectives. In 1995 this resulted in a jail sentence for Gannon. Altogether, Gannon has been sentenced five times (in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2009) for sexual crimes against children. But the Catholic Church did not totally strip Gannon of his priestly status until 2012, when the church hierarchy became alarmed about the launching of Victoria's parliamentary investigation into church-related child sex-abuse. In 2022, several Gannon victims are taking civil action against the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese in Victoria's Supreme Court, demanding proper compensation from the church to make up for the damage that was done to these victims' lives. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 March 2022.)

The church hid the crimes of Christian Brother Edward Dowlan (now known as "Mister Ted Bales"): Background article

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how the Christian Brothers organisation concealed the crimes of Brother Edward Dowlan (now known as "Mister Ted Bales"). From the start, the Christian Brothers knew that Dowlan was committing criminal sexual assaults against Australian schoolchildren but, instead of dismissing him, the Christian Brothers kept transferring him to more schools, thus giving him access to more victims. His victims were usually aged about 11 or 12 but some were as young as 8 or 9. In the 1990s, when some victims finally reported him to the police, the Christian Brothers supported Dowlan and tried to defeat the victims. The victims eventually won by getting him jailed in 1996 and again in 2015. Many of Brother Dowlan's victims have had their lives damaged by the church's cover-up — and several of his victims ended up in suicide. Since 2015, some more of Dowlan's alleged victims have spoken to police detectives, and therefore in 2021 these detectives are preparing a new prosecution of Ted Bales. formerly Dowlan. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 4 June 2021.)

This priest was committing indecent acts against children from Day One, a court is told

A Catholic priest, Father Bryan Desmond Coffey, was indecently touching young children immediately after being ordained, an Australian court has been told. During Coffey's 37 years in the priesthood, church leaders kept hearing about his criminal behaviour but they always concealed this information from the police, thus protecting the church's holy image of priestly "celibacy". Finally, one victim reported Father Coffey's crimes to the police, instead of merely to the church. Coffey was convicted in court in 1999, and the media publicity forced the church authorities to realise that they could no longer merely transfer Coffey to another parish. He continued to be a priest, but a priest without a parish. Broken Rites has researched the court transcripts to compile the following account of how the church covered up the crimes of Father Bryan Coffey. In legal actions in 2021, some of Coffey's victims have successfully sued the church to obtain financial compensation for the damage which was done to their lives. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 9 January 2022.)

The church covered up for Father Paul David Ryan for many years but eventually he was jailed

This Broken Rites Australia article reveals how Catholic Church authorities covered up the child-sex crimes of an Australian priest, Father Paul David Ryan, during his career in Australia (and also during seven visits by Ryan to the United States). This enabled Ryan to endanger more children in more parishes in TWO countries. Eventually, helped by Broken Rites, some victims began reporting Ryan to Australian police, resulting in Ryan being jailed in Australia. And now Ryan could be extradited to the US to face a fresh spate of sexual abuse charges. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 6 May 2022.)

A priest, aged 80, is jailed by a Sydney court for sexual crimes he committed against children at a Catholic boarding school many years ago

A Catholic priest, Father Anthony Caruana, aged 80, was sentenced to jail by a Sydney court on 10 December 2021 for committing sexual offences against a number of boys, aged 12 to 15, in the 1980s when Father Caruana was on the staff of Chevalier College, a Catholic boarding school at Burradoo (near Bowral) in southern New South Wales. Chevalier College was established by a Catholic religious order of priests, known as the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. His jail sentence is for 15 years with the right to release after ten years. (Article updated 10 December 2021.)

This is how a Catholic religious organisation, the St John of God Brothers, 'looked after' disadvantaged boys

The Catholic religious order of St John of God Brothers (SJOG) has operated in Australia for several generations, providing accommodation for boys and young men who have an educational or intellectual disability. In these SJOG institutions, sexual abuse was committed against many boys almost from Day One. Victims have told Broken Rites that the sex-offenders even included the founder of the order's Australian institutions, Brother Kilian Herbert. On 6 February 2017, the SJOG Order was exposed at a public hearing of Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission. I

The church finally admits the child-sex crimes of Father Tony Bongiorno

According to Broken Rites research, the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese has been forced to admit that Father Anthony Bongiorno committed sexual crimes against children during his 30 years working in Melbourne parishes. Anthony (Tony) Bongiorno began training for the priesthood about 1960, aged 25. Anthony Bongiorno's child-sex crimes were covered up until some of his victims exposed him in the mid-1990s. The total number of Father Bongiorno's victims is unknown. For example, in 1980, a woman (named Maria James) learned that her son (aged 11) was a Bongiorno victim but this woman was murdered before she could expose Bongiorno about her son's abuse. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated on 11 November 2021)

A church official admits that at least eight Brothers at a ‘top’ Sydney Catholic school were child-abusers

The Catholic order of Marist Brothers have issued a public statement acknowledging that eight Marist Brothers who have worked at a prominent Sydney boarding school (St Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill) were eventually disgraced in court for committing sexual crimes against children. This statement came on 5 November 2021 after the eighth teacher (Brother John Patrick O’Brien, now aged 81) was jailed by a Sydney court for crimes he committed against boys at this school 50 years ago in the 1960s - a time when there were many reverend Brothers working in Catholic schools. These eight Marist Brothers were not necessarily the only offenders at St Joseph’s College; these eight were merely those who were charged when a victim would finally report a Brother’s crime to the police after reaching adulthood. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 7 November 2021.)

Father John Denham's life of crime (while church leaders covered up for him): Background article

Broken Rites has researched the cover-up of one of Australia's most notorious Catholic priests, Father John Sidney Denham. Father Denham's superiors and colleagues knew about his child-sex crimes but this information was concealed from the police. Finally, some of his victims gradually began to contact the police. As a result, Denham has been convicted in court several times since 2000. He has been in jail since 2008, and his jail time has been increased as more of his victims gradually contacted the police. In 2019, Denham (aged 76) was sentenced to additional jail time for his 59th victim. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated in 2021)

The church was finally forced to apologise for abuse committed by a Melbourne Cathedral priest

After action by Broken Rites, the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese has accepted complaints about a prominent Australian Catholic clergyman, Monsignor Penn Jones. The archdiocese gave a written apology to two men who demonstrated that they were still feeling harmed after being sexually abused by Monsignor Jones in their school days. Broken Rites is continuing its research about Monsignor Penn Jones. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 4 August 2022.)

The church enabled Father David Rapson to commit child-abuse, but now the church is forced to pay big compensation to one of his victims

This Broken Rites article tells how the Catholic Church harboured Father David Edwin Rapson for two decades, thus endangering boys in Catholic schools in Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. His colleagues and superiors kept quiet about Rapson's behaviour because some of his colleagues, too, were a danger to boys. Beginning in 1992, some of his Victorian victims succeeded in getting Rapson jailed in that State. And furthermore, in a private legal action in 2021, one of Rapson's victims has successfully extracted substantial compensation from the church authorities for damage done to this victim. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 11 September 2021.)

The Marist Brothers sheltered this pedophile, helping him to commit crimes against young boys

For many years, Marist Brother Francis William Cable (also known as "Brother Romuald") was committing sexual crimes against Catholic schoolboys in New South Wales. His Marist colleagues and superiors looked the other way, protecting him from the police and giving him access to more victims. Eventually, some of his victims (acting separately) began to contact the New South Wales Police, instead of merely telling Romuald Cable's church colleagues. NSW Police detectives then found some more of his victims. As a result, "Rom" Cable was jailed in 2015 regarding 19 of his victims. The police investigation continued. In 2019, Romuald Cable was sentenced to more jail time after pleading guilty regarding five more of his victims. In 2021, Cable is scheduled to face further charges in court regarding additional boys. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 13 August 2021.)

The church helped Father Kevin O'Donnell to commit crimes against children. But now the victims win proper compensation

One of Australia's most notorious paedophile priests, Father Kevin O'Donnell, committed sexual crimes against children throughout his 50-year career in Melbourne Catholic parishes while his superiors and colleagues looked the other way. Eventually some of O'Donnell's victims contacted the police and got O'Donnell convicted and jailed. The abuse (and the church's cover-up) damaged the lives of victims. The Melbourne archdiocese paid SMALL compensation to victims. But eventually, in 2021, victims' lawyers forced the archdiocese to pay PROPER (larger) compensation to O'Donnell's victims. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 July 2021.)

Father Peter Hansen possessed child pornography during his time in the priesthood, a court is told

For 15 years until 2011, Father Peter Andrew Hansen was a priest belonging to the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese. He became a priest as a mature-age adult (he says) while coping with some personal sexual issues. While he was a priest (he says) he developed a dependency on pornography. He left the priesthood in 2011 and spent the subsequent years working with Vietnamese asylum seekers. Eventually, he was arrested by Australian Federal Police at Sydney airport while returning from Asia. In court in 2021 (aged 63), he pleaded guilty to 31 charges, including one of engaging in sexual intercourse with a child under 18 in the Philippines and 15 counts of producing child abuse material. The judge sentenced Hansen to jail. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 June 2021.)

A former Marist Brother, now 82, is jailed for crimes committed 50 years ago

In the Sydney District Court on 14 May 2021, a former Marist Brother, Kevin Joseph Jewell, now aged 82, was sentenced to jail for indecently assaulting boys when he was a teacher in Sydney Catholic schools in the 1960s. In those years, each new Marist Brother would adopt a "religious" first-name; and Jewell was known to his pupils as Brother "Dacian" (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 May 2021.)

The church concealed Father Terry Pidoto's life of crime: FULL STORY

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how the Catholic Church in Australia protected Father Terry Pidoto for 25 years while he committed crimes against boys in his parishes. (By a Broken Rites researcher.)

A prominent churchman was convicted in regional NSW and then he lost an appeal

Richard John McPhillamy has been a prominent layman in Catholic Church affairs in the diocese of Bathurst, in central-west New South Wales. He was formerly listed as an "acolyte", assisting in various matters at Bathurst's Cathedral of St Michael and St John. Also, he worked as an assistant dormitory master at St Stanislaus College — a Bathurst boarding school for boys. As a dormitory master at this school in the 1980s, Mr Rick McPhillamy had his own room in the "priests corridor", located near the Year Seven dormitory. (This school was conducted by the Catholic religious order of Vincentian priests and Brothers.) In 2011 and 2015, McPhillamy was convicted of committing sexual crimes against three of the boys who were under his control. McPhillamy appealed against these convictions but in 2017 his appeal was dismissed. In a magistrates court in April 2021, police filed some new charges against McPhillamy. (Article updated 13 April 2021.)

A senior Catholic priest is facing charges in Australia from the 1970s

A senior priest in the Jesuit religious order - Father Theo Overberg - began facing court in New South Wales in 2020 regarding sex offences which were allegedly committed in the 1970s against boys at Sydney's St Ignatius College Riverview.

The church covered up the crimes of Brother John Laidlaw, transferring him to schools around Australia

The leaders of the Catholic order of Christian Brothers knew that Brother John Laidlaw was committing sex crimes against boys in Catholic schools but he was allowed to continue his life-long career, teaching at various schools in four Australian states (including at Melbourne's elite St Kevin's College Toorak). In 2019, a judge jailed Brother Laidlaw for crimes committed at a number of Catholic schools in Melbourne and regional Victoria. Broken Rites has researched Brother Laidlaw in the archives of Australia's child-abuse Royal Commission (see later in this article). (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 6 April 2020)

This priest (he was the deputy to a bishop) is jailed again - and police are making further investigations

In the 1970s and 1980s, Father Richard John Cattell was a Catholic priest in western Sydney, where he committed sexual crimes against numerous boys. In the early 1990s, the Catholic Church promoted Cattell to become the Vicar-General of the Parramatta diocese, supervising 48 parishes in western Sydney on behalf of the bishop. Eventually, many years later, some of Cattell's victims began to speak (as adults) to the police, and therefore Cattell was jailed in 1994 and again in 2015 and 2019 regarding these victims. On 2 November 2020, Cattell (aged 80) was jailed again after an additional victim contacted the detectives. This demonstrates that it is never too late for a former victim to obtain justice. In early 2021, New South Wales Police began investigating further complaints from other alleged victims of Richard Cattell. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 9 March 2021.)

An elderly ex-priest is in jail until the year 2026 for crimes against children

In the 1960s, Brian Spillane began training towards a career in the Catholic priesthood. In 2020, he is in jail in New South Wales for sexual crimes which he committed against boys (and also some girls) during his religious career. Spillane's eligible release date is November 2026. While he is in jail, police have investigated some additional allegations about Spillane. (Background article by a Broken Rites researcher.)

The church protected "Father F" for 30 years but eventually he was jailed

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how Catholic Church leaders remained silent for 30 years about the child-sex crimes of Father John Joseph Farrell (also known as "Father F"). In 1993, Broken Rites began researching the Farrell cover-up. In 2012, our research helped to create a "Four Corners" television program about the Farrell cover-up, thus bringing this cover-up to nationwide attention. And this helped to encourage the Federal Government to establish its national child-abuse Royal Commission. Gradually, some of Farrell's victims spoke (separately) to child-protection police, resulting in the jailing of Farrell. (By a Broken Rites researcher.)

Yet another Catholic priest is convicted in New South Wales

Father Dennis Byrnes had a long career as a Catholic priest in parishes on the New South Wales north coast. Between 2016 and 2019, Byrnes underwent a court process in which he was charged with having committed sexual crimes against a boy (these crimes began in 1999 when the boy was aged 12). For legal reasons, there was no media reporting of the case before the court proceedings finished. In 2019, Byrnes (aged 72) was sentenced to jail and the Byrnes case got its first mention on a town's local news website on 7 November 2019. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted 14 November 2019.)

Marist Brothers admit they harbored this criminal Brother

The Marist Brothers have been forced to acknowledge that yet another one of their members — Brother Thomas Joseph Butler (known as "Brother Patrick") — committed sexual offences against children. Broken Rites began researching Butler in 1999. Former students, from several Marist schools in New South Wales and Queensland, told Broken Rites that the Marists knew about Butler's offences but the Marists allowed him to continue teaching — and offending — throughout his long career. In September 2016, Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission held a public hearing (in Newcastle) to examine how the Marist leadership handled Brother Patrick Butler (plus some other offenders). The Royal Commission's report on this matter was published on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on 21 October 2020. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 22 October 2020.)

A priest suddently died after police charged him — and now one of his victims has died by suicide

Broken Rites is doing further research about how the Catholic Church harboured Father Daniel Dominic Hourigan, who committed sexual offences against children in the Sale diocese in eastern Victoria. Hourigan was recruited into the priesthood in his forties. He died three days after police charged him with sexual offences against a boy. Now, many years later, some of his victims are still feeling hurt by the church's cover-up. In 2019, one of Hourigan's victims died by suicide — a slow death lasting forty years. This victim's death is mentioned at the end of this article. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 1 October 2020.)

COVER-UP: A senior Australian Catholic is sentenced in court for concealing some church crimes

One of Australia's most senior Marist Brothers — William Henry Wade (known as "Brother Christopher") — has made history as the first senior Catholic in Australia to plead guilty to concealing the child-sex crimes of Catholic colleagues. In the Sydney District Court on 30 September 2020, Wade (now aged 84) was sentenced for failing to provide information to police during child sex investigations into two other Marist criminals — Francis Cable (known as "Brother Romuald") and Darcy O'Sullivan (known as "Brother Dominic"). (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 30 September 2020.)

How the paedophile Father Denis McAlinden was inflicted on Australian children

Research by Broken Rites has revealed that the Catholic Church knowingly harboured the paedophile priest Father Denis McAlinden for 40 years, thus inflicting him on young girls in parishes around Australia and also overseas. The church has been paying small out-of-court settlements to some of McAlinden's victims, thus avoiding a larger court-based settlement. In November 2016, two sisters began to sue the Catholic Church in the New South Wales Supreme Court for a proper amount to settle their abuse by McAlinden. At the last moment, the church agreed to pay these two women a confidential out-of-court financial settlement, thus preventing the church's other victims from knowing the size of a court-related settlement. This Broken Rites article explains the background about Fr Denis McAlinden and the church's cover-up. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated. 13 September 2020.)


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