KEY POINTS

  • A former priest, 72, was indicted in Virginia on two felony counts of carnal knowledge by force of a minor under the age of 18
  • He allegedly sexually assaulted a minor at a Rockingham County ski resort sometime between 1979 and 1980
  • He has served two prison sentences for separate  sexual assault cases in Australia which also involved minors

An investigation into allegations of abuse committed four decades ago has prompted Virginia Beach, Virginia, authorities to charge a former Catholic priest from Australia with sexual assault of a minor, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

A Rockingham County grand jury indicted 72-year-old Paul David Ryan on two felony counts of carnal knowledge by force of a minor under the age of 18, the office of Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement

The alleged assault occurred between 1979 and 1980 when Ryan was an ordained Catholic priest assigned to the Star of the Sea Parish and its affiliated school with the same name.

Prosecutors alleged that Ryan took the victim, who was under the age of 18 at the time, on a ski trip to Massanutten Resort in Rockingham County, Virginia, under the pretense of a church-sanctioned outing and sexually assaulted the minor twice.

Ryan is currently in custody and is in the process of being extradited back to Virginia for trial, Herring's office said.

The now-defrocked priest recently served his second jail sentence in Australia for sexual assaults he committed against young boys in Victoria, according to the Washington Post. He received his first prison sentence in September 2007 after he pleaded guilty in Victoria to five counts of indecent assault of two teenage boys, as per The Virginian-Pilot

Ryan was sent to the U.S. to receive "treatment" after Melbourne Catholic authorities became concerned about his sexual activity with other seminarians when he was training to be a priest in Melbourne in the 1970s, Australian newspaper the Age reported. 

The new charges against Ryan were the result of an investigation launched by Herring's office that looked into possible sexual abuse of children committed by Catholic dioceses in Virginia. According to the statement, the charges were the second to come from the investigation. 

"Our investigation with Virginia State Police into potential clergy abuse in the Commonwealth remains ongoing and I want to encourage anyone who may have more information about this case or any other instances of abuse to please reach out to us as soon as possible," Herring said.

"If you or someone you know has additional information about these or any other instances of abuse, please contact the Virginia Clergy Abuse Hotline at 1-833-454-9064 or at www.VirginiaClergyHotline.com that are both available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of clergy abuse."

In response to the announcement by Herring's office, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond said in a statement released Tuesday that it had fully cooperated with the ongoing investigation.

"Bishop Knestout encourages all victims of sexual abuse to report allegations to law enforcement. We continue to pray for all victim survivors of abuse and remain diligent in our efforts of creating a safe environment for all," the statement said.

snow-3338751_1920 Representation. Ryan allegedly brought the victim, who was under the age of 18 at that time, to a ski resort and sexually assaulted him twice. Photo: Pixabay