Sunday, November 16, 2014

Unholy Trinity: The Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day, by Denis Ryan and Peter Hoysted

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

In this deeply disturbing book, former police detective Denis Ryan tells of how he tried to bring paedophile priest John Day to justice. 

In the early 1960s, a young police detective named Denis Ryan moved his young family from the bayside suburb of Aspendale to Mildura. The reason was his son’s asthma. The cold weather was having an adverse effect on his health, and the family’s doctor suggested the child needed a warmer climate. Ryan got a transfer. When he arrived in Mildura, he knew he was going to have trouble with his superior, Detective Sergeant Jim Barritt. Barritt’s reputation preceded him. Nonetheless, Denis Ryan had his son's health to think of. The trouble with Barritt was just something he’d have to deal with.

Things turned out much worse than he could ever have imagined. Barritt was part of the "Catholic Mafia", happy to ignore the law to protect the clergy. The cleric in question was Monsignor John Day. Ryan had had a run in with John Day in the 1950s, in St Kilda, when he had found him in a compromising position with two prostitutes. When Day was posted to Mildura, Ryan came into contact with the monsignor for the second time. He now started to hear word that Day was molesting children. Then an official complaint was made by the parents of a young girl who had been one of Day’s victims. Being a diligent policeman, Ryan started investigating. Pretty soon he had overwhelming evidence against Day.

You would think that would be the end of it. What followed would cost Ryan his job and his sanity. The Catholic Mafia within the police force came down hard and stymied any investigation. If Day was charged, too many within the police force, not to mention the clergy, would be found culpable for covering up the monsignor’s practices for so long. It is believed Day abused hundreds of boys (and some girls) over many decades.   

Denis Ryan throughout all this time stayed within the Catholic faith. He is very mindful to say his book is not anti-Catholic. The book’s overall tone, though, is one of absolutely shocking corruption and cover up. You choke and gasp for breath as you read the horrors visited upon children entrusted to the church's care. It’s really hard to say who is the worse party, the police or the church. (Another character involved in the cover up was Mildura's clerk of courts, Joseph Kearney: hence the "unholy trinity" of church, police and court.) The police should have done their job, when the facts seemed so plain. Yet they actively smothered the investigation. The church’s leaders knew exactly what Day was up to, sexually abusing children, but continued to send him from parish to parish. It’s often hard to get your head around the depth of villainy and contempt for the safety of children.

For anyone seeking to find out how abuse within the Catholic Church went on for so long, how so many had their lives ruined, Unholy Trinity shows how unquestioned church power can lead to the worst of crimes.

Unholy Trinity: The Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day, by Denis Ryan and Peter Hoysted. Published by Allen and Unwin. ISBN: 9781743314029 RRP: $29.99

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