Review - Unholy Trinity, Peter Hoysted & Denis Ryan

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

As a result of testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings in relation to the Ballarat area a heap of questions were unavoidable. As a person who grew up there at exactly the time that some of the worst offenders were at the heights of their protected lifestyles, the number one question is and will always be, how did they cover it up? How on earth did so many crimes occur with nobody seeming to do anything about it? As a result of those questions I went looking for some books / stories to try to understand, and UNHOLY TRINITY was one of the books recommended.

Denis Ryan knew only too well, some of what John Day was up to in Mildura. He had increasing numbers of witness statements, he certainly had enough evidence to lay charges, and he had some powerful local people in opposition to him. The trinity that included John Day, the local Police Chief and the Clerk of Courts wielded influence, power and control in a manner that was positively breathtaking. Mind you, the years and years of "special treatment" for priests by the police force was already appalling.

I started reading this book to try to get some insight into how it was that Day, Ridsdale and their ilk managed to continue to offend in small towns and communities and came away from this book with a much clearer understanding. Ryan tells his story calmly and with dignity. This is a man who doesn't come across as somebody with a personal axe to grind, or a desire for self-aggrandisement or fame. This is also a man with the internal gumption to yank his son off the altar and away from Day in the middle of Mass. Not a man who took his job lightly, or bowed to pressure. What he knew and what he tried to do ultimately lost him his wife, and a big chunk of his personal life.

Thankfully his writing of this book has also cast some light into some appalling corners of life, clearly showing that the cover-up was wide ranging, far-reaching and ruthless. Let's hope that the Royal Commission takes the same approach.

Year of Publication

One policeman's desperate and moving account of his decades-long struggle to bring a depraved pedophile priest to justice—only to find himself obstructed by the Catholic Church and betrayed by his own police force.

Monsignor John Day, who was arguably Australia's most prolific pedophile, died in 1978. His victims are counted in the hundreds. Yet when Day died, he was feted by Bishop Ronald Mulkearns as having "faithfully fulfilled his ministry in God's name." For years his crimes had been overlooked and tacitly endorsed by the church. Unbelievably, Day had committed his terrible crimes with the knowledge and protection of senior members of the Victoria Police, as well as the Clerk of the Courts, the most senior officer of the court in Mildura in the 1960s and 70s. Denis Ryan, a young police detective from Melbourne, had transferred to Mildura in the early 1960s. By the tacit rules of the day, priests were not to be charged for any crime short of murder in Victoria. But Ryan was a good cop, and quickly gained the trust of the people of Mildura. One by one the victims started coming forward—children who had been molested by Monsignor Day, and their shocked and sometimes disbelieving parents. Armed with a dozen or more signed statements, Ryan had sufficient evidence to lay charges. Then began his nightmare, as his every step towards bringing Day to justice was blocked by the Catholic Church and then the Victoria Police. Ryan struggled for decades to have his story and those of Day's countless victims heard, but shamefully, this will be the first time this tragic tale is made public. This is Ryan's story, told in his own words. It is also the story of Day's victims, many of whom are alive today, and are here for the first time given a voice. After all this time, at last the truth can now be told. 

Review Review - Unholy Trinity, Peter Hoysted & Denis Ryan
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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