The Maria James Murder: The Catholic Mafia

The previous instalment in this series, "Paul Delianis - The Golden Greek", can be read here

THE CATHOLIC MAFIA - The Honourable Society (with apologies to 'Ndrangheta)

The "Catholic Mafia" were/are a co-ordinated group of police officers who are organised around the principle of protecting Catholic priests from criminal charges and prosecution of their criminal behaviour. This behaviour ranges from traffic violations to the raping of children and, as we will see in further episodes, the murder of a Melbourne mother.

What is clear is that the Catholic Church leadership has for decades controlled the Victorian police force when it suits their purposes. The evidence for this is laid out in the following article.


Denis Ryan was a detective at Mildura in Victoria in 1972 when he was forced through circumstances contrived by Victoria Police leadership to resign. He had the temerity to want to charge and prosecute serial child rapist, Monsignor John Day, Catholic parish priest for Mildura, for his many offences over many years.

Ryan first came across Day when he was a Constable at St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne known widely as the 'red light district' of Melbourne. Day was found in his car in the company of two prostitutes with his pants around his ankles and paralytic drunk. Constable Ryan took Day to the police station and was shocked when he was not charged and was instead released into the company of two young priests who came from the Cathedral after Day managed to make a call to the Cathedral for help. Ryan thought that priests should be held to a higher standard rather than a lower one.

Later that evening, when Ryan approached the senior officer in charge, Tom Jenkins, saying, “Tell me, what's the drill when we lock up priests?”
Tom replied somewhat chillingly, “We don't lock them up. We let them go. Once you've been around for a while, you'll start to learn that the Catholic Church carries a good deal more clout than the local church on the corner.
It's a political organisation. It has wrapped itself around every layer of government. This happens everywhere. All across Australia and probably all over the world. But nowhere does the Catholic Church have more power than it does in the Victorian police force. Short of a murder blue, he'll walk every time.
Nothing would happen to Day. This goes all the way to the top. It's just not the police. It's the judges, lawyers, politicians. I don't agree with it but there are forces at work here that are stronger than you or me. I learnt early on in the job, don't pick fights you can't win.” (05:50min)

This is in 1956. Welcome to the Catholic Mafia, a group within Victoria Police that would keep the priests immune from being charged for any crime. The priests had carte blanche.

The next time Denis Ryan would knowingly come into contact with the Catholic Mafia was after he had became a detective in 1958. Det Sgt Fred Russell approached him to join their ranks saying, “There is a group of us who at the request of the Cathedral look into instances where priests have been charged with offences to see if we can have these matters dropped or dismissed so the church's good name will not be brought into disrepute. We know your strong belief. We'd like to invite you to join us.”
A group of police keeping a look out for and protecting priests; the Catholic Mafia. (08:30min)
Ryan declined to join.

This group claimed to be protecting the 'good name' of the Church. But who or what is “the Church”? The word 'church' can refer to many things:-
- a building;
- the world-wide body of Christians throughout time;
- an esoteric group of people;
- the Catholic laity in general, perhaps church attending or not;
- the Catholic Church diocesan hierarchy with or without the religious orders;
- the Vatican, when referring to edicts from on high.

'Church' has multiple meanings and politicians, theologians, church officials and other apologists will often use the word to refer to different meanings (different groups of people) within the one statement or argument. This is the “Fallacy of Equivocation” and is used consciously to confuse and deceive.

(Whenever I refer to 'the church' without qualifying it in this essay, I will be referring to the priests and their clerical superiors.)

So Fred Russell may have hoped Ryan would interpret the word 'church' to include himself; as if the crimes and attendant shame were collective. But who exactly were Russell and his fellow conspirators protecting? The punters in the pews? Hardly.

“Criminal priests”, is the answer and at the request of the Catholic Church hierarchy – the bishops and higher. Every time a priest committed a prosecutable offence and was let go without charge, in doing so, further crimes were being committed by members of the Victoria Police and the senior members of the Catholic hierarchy. This is a criminal conspiracy being perpetrated against the public and, more specifically, against the Catholic community because it was their children who were continuing to be raped and destroyed.

So it cannot be it argued that this criminal conspiracy of police and priests were protecting the wider Catholic community. The conspirators were directly protecting criminal paedophile priests at the direct cost of the Catholic laity. Who protects paedophiles? Fellow paedophiles and psychopaths and those who are compromised and ensnared by these fellow paedophiles and psychopaths. Paedophilia is anathema to everyone else.

Denis Ryan has stated that had Monsignor John Day been charged with his crimes at the time, hundreds of children would have been spared. Hundreds of families would have been spared problems that became generational. Every policeman who conspired in this travesty is guilty of the most horrendous of crimes. During this time in the '70's and before, Victoria Police functioned as a criminal organisation. Not all police were criminals, of course, but it is a matter of record that the criminals were not held to account – and still aren't. Many looked the other way – and still do. Why?


The other organisation involved in this criminal conspiracy was the Catholic Church; meaning the priests and their superiors. In the face of the aggrieved parents who came to them detailing the paedophilic crimes of their fellow priests, the bishops also appealed to the abstraction of preserving the 'good name of the church'. But that 'church' most definitely did not include the parents or their children in the parishes that the paedophile priests were subsequently sent to.

The 'good name' that the bishops wanted to preserve was the good name of the paedophiles and their fellow paedophile friendly bishops, archbishops and perhaps now cardinal.

In the typical case, when the aggrieved parents met with the bishop, they wanted something done about the paedophile. They did not want his crimes to continue. They wanted him removed from the parish and removed from further contact with children.

The paedophile in question also wants to be removed from the parish as he does not want to be confronted by angry parents, wider exposure and perhaps even receive a beating. He does not want to be removed from access to children, however. He wants to be sent to another parish that does not know of his crimes so he can continue to rape and ruin.

If the bishop was truly concerned with the interests of the wider Catholic laity and wanted to avoid any chance of further scandal (and threat to the 'good name'), he would agree with the parents and remove the offending paedophile from ministry and from further contact with children.

But what did the bishops do in every case? They did what the paedophiles wanted. They moved them to fresh and greener pastures. By their actions, the bishops sided with the interests of the paedophiles and against the interests of the children and their families. "By their deeds ye shall know them"

The bishops facilitated the paedophile priests in committing more horrendous crimes against Catholic children and by extension, Catholic families. The same families that the Church itself said (and says) that God has charged them to protect. This charge from God to protect is the basis of their authority and they have trampled on it.

Again, who protects paedophiles? It would be instructive that whenever the words, “protecting the good name of the Church” are written or spoken, to think instead, “protecting the good name of the paedophiles”. That is a far more accurate description of what was actually happening.


Back to Denis Ryan. He would be forced out of the police force by the Catholic Mafia within the police force in 1972. His 'sin'?; trying to enforce the law that is supposed to apply to everybody. By this time (if not before), the Catholic Mafia included the Chief Commissioner of Police, Reg jackson. This was acknowledged by the Victoria Police force itself in 2015 in the personage of the current Chief Commissioner, Graeme Ashton.

Mick Miller, Chief Commissioner at the time of Maria James' death (L), Denis Ryan (C), Graeme Ashton, current Chief Commissioner (R)

Was the Catholic Mafia in place eight years later in 1980 when Maria James was killed by two Catholic priests? Denis Ryan and journalist, Peter Hoysted were able to establish that it was still in operation in 1976. I think we can say with confidence that the Catholic Mafia was still in place because corrupt criminal networks do not suddenly dissolve or reform themselves. That is not their nature. They can only get worse absent some catastrophic event (for them) such as a genuine public inquiry followed by multiple sackings and convictions. That hasn't happened.

So the Catholic Mafia was still in place at the time of Maria James' murder and the signs are that it still is to this day.

In 2012, the Age newspaper in Melbourne ran a front page story about suicides in Ballarat amongst men who had been abused as children by priests and Christian Brothers in Ballarat. The story quoted a leaked report compiled by Ballarat policeman, Sgt Kevin Carson, who detailed 40 suicides amongst that population of survivors in that town. One of the survivors of that campaign of abuse was later to show the Royal Commission into this sexual abuse a class photo of his from the 1970's. Half of his fellow students in the photo were now dead. Half!

Kevin Carson compiled his list after being approached by Robert Walsh who lost two of his brothers and one of his cousins to suicide. All had been abused at Catholic schools in Ballarat.

The real cost of this abuse was now before the public. The Victorian Government in the face of the horrified reaction of the public, instituted a Victorian Parliament Inquiry. The Inquiry had all the hallmarks of a “set-up to fail sham” but, in fact, it started to do a better than average job of it complete with better than average press coverage. The Catholic Church was not looking good.

In the face of this, Victoria Police decided to do their own little inquiry into Sgt Kevin Carson's report which had caused the parliamentary inquiry to be called. This internal reactive inquiry was call “Operation Plangere”.

'Plangere' is an unusual word. It is Latin and means to strike or beat as in striking one's chest similar to the "Mea Culpa" practice employed in the Catholic Mass. Or perhaps as in what happened to Peter Curran detailed below. The other, but related meaning, is to wail/lament or mourn. Latin is more commonly associated with the Catholic Church rather than Victoria Police. Was someone in the Church together with someone in the police mocking the survivors and those that suicided?

According to Louise Milligan's book, “Cardinal – The Rise And Fall Of George Pell”, Operation Plangere concluded that only one of the suicides could be substantiated as linked to sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy. A remarkable finding especially in light of the fact that the detectives running Operation Plangere did not talk to Rob Walsh or any of his family.

Indeed, the police did not talk to even one of the family members of any of the men who suicided. The investigating police were ordered not to approach the families. You can't investigate a crime without talking with the people with the most information. Unless . . . your aim is not to investigate and your conclusion is pre-ordained.

The police officers who wrote up the Operation Plangere report were also obstructed by other police officers from interviewing Sgt Kevin Carson, the author of the initial report that they were investigating. Carson was unaware that he was being sought out and it has to be said that the Operation Plangere officers did not try too hard to circumvent the obstacles in their path. I mean, the man had a phone, for goodness sake!

The Operation Plangere report was an obvious political whitewash attempting to discredit Sgt Kevin Carson and the Victorian Government for calling the Inquiry and to discredit the remaining survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Ballarat. The police who ordered the report and the police who carried it out could not have been ignorant of the fact that the risk that this nonsense conclusion could cause yet more suicides.

Who stood to benefit from this bogus report? It is not clear that Victoria Police or any specific members of the force would benefit directly from this false and potentially fatal report. In fact, it reflects poorly on them. The Catholic Church, on the other hand stood to benefit very directly. Indeed, the Church, upon the release of the Operation Plangere report and citing it, predictably claimed that it had been unduly and falsely criticised by Carson's report. And perhaps if the bogus report caused the death of a few more survivors, that wouldn't be such a bad thing from the perspective of the church -

From an ABC report in 2015 A Ballarat survivor of clerical sexual abuse has told the royal commission today that ten local victims have committed suicide in the last year.

This is three years after Sgt Kevin Carson's report of 40 suicides was leaked to the media.

Also from that same ABC News report - Bishop Bird told us if the church had to pay that amount to every survivor (a modest supplement to their government disability pension) the church would go bankrupt. Bishop Bird told us that we were in danger of destroying his church. He said, "Andrew, you need to understand something, the church has endured for thousands of years, and in another 40 years or so, you people will all be dead and this will be forgotten about and the church will endure for thousands of years more".

Note the 'Us and Them' attitude evident in Bishop Bird's words; never mind the evident stinginess and rejection of responsibility for the damage directly resulting from their crimes.

Some attitudes never change, it seems.

Louise Milligan concludes her chapter on Operation Plangere with the apparent acceptance of Victoria Police's narrative explaining away their nonsense report as ineptness-

"What in reality, Victoria Police tells me it was, was an attempt to not upset families of a bunch of guys who died a long time ago when it would be very difficult to establish on any measure exactly what caused them to take their lives. It seemed like a pointless and unnecessarily distressing exercise. But in the process, the report unwittingly undermined the forces new commissioner and the police case against Pell."

Nowhere is the purpose of Operation Plangere explained. The motivation is missing. The reasons for the totally unprofessional manner in which it was investigated are plainly ridiculous and does not account for not interviewing Sgt Kevin Carson. There is nothing "unwitting" about the report's result of weakening the police's own case against Pell. Anyone with a modicum of reasoning ability could tell the outcome of the report in advance. 'By their deeds (and not their narrative) shall ye know them'.

The only way to make sense of all this is if we assume that the outcome of weakening the case against Pell was the motivation for Operation Plangere to begin with. Everything then falls into place.

A secondary benefit is that the bogus report undermined the position of Graeme Ashton who had championed Sgt Kevin Carson. (Ashton did not rise up through the ranks of Victoria Police. He was recruited from the Federal Police).

Here again we have what appears to be Victoria Police using its power to cover for the criminal behaviour of the Catholic Church. Remember back in 1956, Constable Denis Ryan's superior, Tom Jenkins said of the Catholic Church,
“It's a political organisation. It has wrapped itself around every layer of government. This happens everywhere. All across Australia and probably all over the world. But nowhere does the Catholic Church have more power than it does in the Victorian police force."

Some behaviours never change, it seems.

If the Catholic Mafia was still operating within Victoria Police today, Operation Plangere is exactly what it would look like.


Perhaps we should not leave the subject of Operation Plangere before looking at a specific example. Let us look at the death of Peter Curran of whom it was noted in the report as dying from “natural causes”. The following factual details also come from Louise Milligan's book, “Cardinal” though the opinions below deriving from these facts belong to this author.

Peter answered the repeated knocking on his door at about 3am one night. Upon opening the door, he was stabbed in the chest by an unknown assailant. The assailant removed his knife from Peter's chest and said, “Sorry, mate, wrong house”!

Peter Curran was by this stage in his life an alcoholic and was reportedly very drunk that night. He waited four days, hoping the wound would heal, before going to hospital. He died several weeks later while still in hospital. The death certificate noted that he died from complications from the (one) stab wound to his chest. There was no inquest into his death as there absolutely should have been.

During his stay in hospital, Peter's story changed a little but it was also noted that he was becoming increasingly delirious. Apparently, there were now two men at his door when he answered it and that they were wearing balaclavas. Frankly, these additional details would be completely in keeping with a murder attempt as initially described. But the police seized on these additions to claim that Peter stabbed himself multiple times in an attempted suicide.

This suicide conclusion beggars belief. There is at least enough circumstances indicating a possible murder and to also hold an inquiry into his death. But it gets worse. When Peter's 'suicide' becomes embarrassing to the Catholic Church (as a finding of murder would have previously been), Victoria Police attribute his death to “natural causes” in the Operation Plangere Report. One has to wonder if the police officers writing and signing off on this report are either spectacularly incompetent or massively corrupt or both? How else do you explain this?

How do you explain the police dismissing the possibility that Peter Curran could have been murdered and finding instead that he committed suicide and then turn around and overrule their previous opinion of suicide to say he died of "natural causes"? I guess getting stabbed by someone who knocked on the wrong door is natural enough. I mean, it's "human error" which could happen to anyone and therefore is natural enough according to Victoria Police's Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner AND Chief Commissioner. But more on that later.

Oh, did I mention that Peter Curran had told many people shortly before he was stabbed that he was going to the press about Cardinal George Pell walking in on him being abused by Fr Gerald Ridsdale at the presbytery where Ridsdale and Pell both lived? Well, he did.

Ridsdale had left the door to his room open while he was abusing Peter Curran (Milligan p229). It seems he was not concerned about being seen by other residents at the presbytery. If that's the case (and it would seem so), why not?

Source Ridsdale (L) and Pell (R) outside the court

There's a rule for whistleblowers; do not tell people you are going to the media or about the information that you are going public with before it is published.

While the perpetrators think you will remain silent, you are not such a threat to them and relatively safe.

Once they find out that you intend to go public, then you become a massive threat to them and this time is the most dangerous for the whistleblower. This is the time between when the perps find out you are going public and when the information actually is aired publicly. This is the period when the perps have the most to gain from your death.

After you have publicly announced your abuse and identified your abusers, it is too late for the perpetrators to gain anything from your death. All your death would do then is validate your accusations. You are then relatively safe again . There is certainly no guarantees, of course, and you can expect character assassination instead. Just ask Phil Scott, a previous accuser of Pell.

Peter Curran did, in fact, go to the media, specifically Channel Nine, but they did not air the recorded segment he made with them. This decision on the part of Channel Nine left Peter in a very dangerous situation that soon proved fatal.

So who suffered from the writing and publication of Operation Plangere?
- The victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church hierarchy.
- The families of those who had suicided also suffered.
- Survivors who have subsequently suicided and their families.

Who benefited from the writing and publication of Operation Plangere? - The Catholic Church hierarchy.

Who facilitated and wrote this fantastical report? - Victoria Police. This report would never reflect well on them so I don't see any internal motivation on the part of police. But external motivation is a distinct possibility given the criminal collusion between the police and the Catholic Church in the past.

This is the pattern that stretches from the present day back to at least the 1950's.


Of course, this apparent close collusion between the Catholic Church and Victoria Police could not continue over the decades without the support of the government and the legal fraternity.

In 1996, the newly crowned archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell, announced his way of dealing with the growing tide of abuse allegations against his fellow priests calling it “The Melbourne Response”.

It would be an 'in-house' attempt to deal with criminal behaviour of the members of his organisation without involving police or the courts. Pell was supported in this extra-judicial cover-up by none other than the then Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett. From Louise Milligan again (p64) 'Kennett told Pell at a meeting that something must be done about this abuse issue . . . . “and I said to him if he doesn't fix it, I will” '

Kennett, in saying this to Pell, was abrogating his responsibility as head of the State Government to enforce the law. He instead passed that responsibility over to the offending organisation to investigate their own crimes. And these aren't petty matters, either. These are high crimes; crimes that little more than forty years previously in Victoria carried the death penalty!

Kennett was not the only high official to approve of this avoidance of the law by the perpetrating organisation. The Governor of Victoria, Richard McGarvie (a former judge, no less) told Pell in 1996, “You are going to have to deal with this problem resolutely. If you don't, it will bleed you dry for years – emotionally and more importantly than that, it will bleed away the good standing of the Church”.

Governor McGarvie's level of concern for the law being upheld and for justice for the victims of these high crimes is obvious. It would seem that these aren't crimes to be prosecuted. They are instead a “problem” to be dealt with in such a way to preserve the image (and power) of the Church. But who is the “Church” in this case? Clearly it is the priests that are raping children and fellow priests that are covering for them – the perpetrators - and not the laity.

Following Pell's announcement of the “Melbourne Response”, Victoria Police, in a media release, also welcomed this bypassing of the law by saying it was, “a positive step in tackling this very sensitive community issue” (Cardinal - Milligan). So Victoria's police force described the raping of children by priests as a “sensitive community issue” rather than horrendous crimes that should be prosecuted by the institutions that the Victorian public paid for to do their job.

It seems that all the institutions were committed to preserving the 'good name' of the paedophiles. The children were first betrayed by the priests individually and then subsequently by 'the Church' collectively, the Victorian State Government and, finally, Victoria Police. These are the same institutions that were unable to find the killers of Maria James in 1980 and are now claiming incompetence and calling it “human error” instead of corruption in fumbling this case for 37 years.


Mr Peter O'Callaghan QC was appointed by the Catholic Church to head up the Melbourne Response in 1996. Mr O'Callaghan was at retiring age in his mid sixties at the time. He is still heading up this organisation twenty years later which is rather odd, to say the least.

Another oddity is that he is called by the Catholic Church its "Independent Commissioner". When he was challenged by this writer as to how he could be independent of the organisation that appointed him and pays him, he replied that he is paid by the church's law firm and that makes him 'independent'. How is this marvel of logical reasoning possible from a barrister . . . . and QC, no less?

The media repeatedly refers to O'Callaghan as "the Church's Independent Commissioner" seemingly blind to the obvious oxymoron. If he is the Church's Commissioner, how can he be independent of the Church at the same time?

The title 'Commissioner' implies a government appointment; an appointment that has legal standing. Mr O'Callaghan has no legal standing, nor does his office, and therefore the title is very misleading. But this is another example of how the Church establishes its own pseudo-legal bodies to inquire into itself and presumes authority over people especially survivors of criminal behaviour from their own priests. And the police, the legal system and the governments play along . . . every time.

The Melbourne Response included a 'Compensation Panel'. They dispensed amounts to survivors that averaged $35,000 in exchange for a legal waiver to their right to sue the Church in civil court. The survivors were being bought off for pennies on the dollar. The Church then turned around in public and presented these insurance payments against being sued as "compensation" for the sexual abuse. It was no such thing. And still isn't, because the practice continues.

This so-called "Compensation Panel" was headed up initially by Mr Alex Chernov, QC. Mr Chernov had to resign his position on the Panel to take up a judgeship on the Victorian Supreme Court. He was later to become the Governor of Victoria as Richard McGarvie was some years before him.

Mr Chernov's successor on the 'Compensation Panel' was Mr David Habersberger QC. He also resigned from the panel to take up a position as a judge with the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Mr Habersberger was replaced by Ms Susan Crennan QC who likewise had to resign her position on the Panel to take up a position as judge on the Federal Court.

The fourth and current incumbent is Mr David Curtain QC. Will Dave make it four out of four?


We shall end this article how we started it by revisiting a quote from Denis Ryan who in turn was quoting his one time superior, Tom Jenkins, on how 'the system' works -

“We don't lock them (priests – ed.) up. We let them go. Once you've been around for a while, you'll start to learn that the Catholic Church carries a good deal more clout than the local church on the corner.

It's a political organisation. It has wrapped itself around every layer of government. This happens everywhere. All across Australia and probably all over the world. But nowhere does the Catholic Church have more power than it does in the Victorian police force. Short of a murder blue, he'll walk every time.

Nothing would happen to Day. This goes all the way to the top. It's just not the police. It's the judges, lawyers, politicians. I don't agree with it but there are forces at work here that are stronger than you or me. I learnt early on in the job, don't pick fights you can't win.” (05:50min)

The statement from Tom Jenkins that short of murder, priests will walk every time, appears not to have held true in the case of Maria James' Murder

The next instalment in this series, "The Maria James Murder: The Cover-Up" can be viewed here

Cardinal – The Rise And Fall Of George Pell by Louise Milligan
Unholy Trinity: The Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day
by Denis Ryan
Casefile 34 - podcast
Ballarat's Children - podcast
Catholic Cops Involved in Cover- up of Child Abuse by Priests


"So much wasted time": David Cassidy

Nice to see someone's still working on uncovering the truth!

Thanks for your comment

The Truth has been uncovered as far as who killed Maria James is concerned. See here

But there is far more to this murder that needs to come out.

Keeping insurance records for 50 years

Given the findings of the Royal Commission that it takes on average 33 years for victims to come forward in sexual abuse cases, insurers especially the Catholic Church's insurer/s should be required to keep all sexual abuse claims and correspondence regarding claims for at least 50 years.

This shouldn't be a 'big ask' in the digital age.

I'll bet they keep anything helpful beyond the 6 year statutory limitation period.

Shouldn't the limitation period for bringing sexual abuse claims be changed to 39 years too (33 years to feel comfortable to do so + the normal 6 year limitation period) for bringing civil claims?

Should the Mafia be required to keep records of its criminality?

Given the findings of the Royal Commission that it takes on average 33 years for victims to come forward in sexual abuse cases, insurers especially the Catholic Church's insurer/s should be required to keep all sexual abuse claims and correspondence regarding claims for at least 50 years.

And who would police this and how? There is an assumption in your suggestion that the Catholic hierarchy, their companies, agencies and retainers are capable of acting honourably. Based on history, I do not share that view.

This shouldn't be a 'big ask' in the digital age.

See above!

I'll bet they keep anything helpful beyond the 6 year statutory limitation period.

The Church hacks, taps and collects all the information it can. As you know, this costs a lot of money and therefore for that reason alone, the Church is not going to throw it away. Nor is it going to divulge this information until it is strategic for it to do so.

The Church knows better than anyone that information is power. What do you think "the Confessional" is all about?

Shouldn't the limitation period for bringing sexual abuse claims be changed to 39 years too (33 years to feel comfortable to do so + the normal 6 year limitation period) for bringing civil claims?

Why should there be a limitation period? Let's ask the Church to either justify the legal limitation period in their case or accept it's abolition. That should be interesting!
Their criminality destroys lives and, in many cases, ends lives. This is a form of murder. There is no limitation period for murder.
The rape of a child used to be a hangable offense in Victoria until 1954.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.