''Revelation'' is a three-episode Australian documentary series directed by Nial Fulton and Sarah Ferguson. The series was released on ABC in March 2020. In a world television first, the producers took cameras into the criminal trials of Catholic priests accused of sex crimes against children and interviewed Father Vincent Ryan and Brother Bernard McGrath, two of the most prolific and notorious paedophiles in Australia. The series culminates in the Vatican, with the story of Cardinal George Pell, a Catholic cleric accused of abusing boys in an orphanage in Australia.


The series was produced by In Films, and was shot in the Vatican, Ireland, New Zealand and multiple locations around Australia, including the notorious Catholic Dioceses of Ballarat and Maitland/Newcastle. Following lengthy negotiations, the producers were granted permission to bring cameras into New South Wales District Court to film the 2019 child sex abuse criminal trails of Father Vincent Ryan and Brother Bernard McGrath. Ryan's trial was filmed over six weeks and McGrath's over a seven-month period. It was the first time anywhere in the world cameras had been allowed into a clerical child abuse trial. Both Ryan and McGrath consented to their trials being recorded for the series. In another television first, Corrective Services granted permission for a four-person film crew to enter a maximum security prison to interview Bernard McGrath, a former member of the Catholic religious order St John of God. McGrath is serving a 39-year prison sentence for scores of sex offences against young boys under his care in Kendall Grange, New South Wales.


Episode 1 was broadcast on 17 March 2020 on the ABC. Episode 2 was postponed due to the Prime Minister's televised address to the nation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and went to air on 31 March. Episode 3 was screened two days later on 2 April.

Key people

* Sarah Ferguson - Presenter Episode 1: "The Children have been used by the Devil" * Father Vincent Ryan - convicted paedophile priest, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle * Gerard McDonald - victim of Vincent Ryan * Peter Dorn - victim of Vincent Ryan * Scott Hallett - victim of Vincent Ryan * Bill Burston - Catholic priest, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle * Troy Grant - former police officer * Michael King - Vincent Ryan's barrister * David Patch - Crown prosecutor, Ryan 2019 trial * William Wright - current bishop of Maitland-Newcastle * Dina Yehia - New South Wales District Court judge * Mary McAleese - former President of Ireland * Colm O'Gorman - Irish survivor of clerical abuse Eisode 2: "A Dangerous Place to be a Child" * Vincent Ryan - convicted paedophile Catholic priest, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle * Audrey Nash - former friend of Vincent Ryan, mother of Andrew Nash * Andrew Nash (archive) - 13-year-old schoolboy who took his own life following sexual abuse * Geoffrey Nash - Andrew Nash's older brother * Bernard McGrath - convicted paedophile brother, Hospitaller Order of St John of God * Paul Andreassen - victim of Bernard McGrath * Jason Van Dyke - victim of Bernard McGrath * Paul - victim of Bernard McGrath * Phil Hogan - Crown prosecutor, McGrath 2019 trial * Gina O'Rourke - judge, New South Wales District Court * Sean Buckley - former New Zealand detective * Michelle Mulvihill - former psychologist, St John of God * Kristi Faber - detective sergeant, NSW Police * William Wright - current bishop of Maitland-Newcastle * Bill Burston - Catholic priest, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle * Brian Lucas - Catholic priest * Maurice Cahill - Catholic priest * Diarmuid Martin - Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland * Mary McAleese - former President of Ireland * Colm O'Gorman - Irish survivor of clerical abuse * Joanne McCarthy - journalist Episode 3: - "Goliath" * Bernie - former resident, Nazareth House Boys Home, Ballarat * Peter Clarke - former resident, Nazareth House Boys Home, Ballarat * Albert Azzopardi - former resident, Nazareth House Boys Home, Ballarat * Philip Clarke - former resident, Nazareth House Boys Home, Ballarat * Steve Blacker - victim of Father Gerald Ridsdale * Shirley Ridsdale - sister of Father Gerald Ridsdale * Viv Waller - lawyer, Melbourne * Judy Courtin - lawyer, Melbourne * William Melican - Catholic priest, Diocese of Ballarat * Eric Bryant - Catholic priest, Diocese of Ballarat * George Pell (archive) - cardinal, Australia * Charles Scicluna - Archbishop of Malta * Mark Coleridge - Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia * David Marr - journalist * Peter McClellan - chair, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse * Steve Bannon - political strategist * Mary McAleese - former President of Ireland * Peter Saunders - British victim's advocate * David O'Brien - barrister, Melbourne


Critical response

The series met with positive reviews. Holly Byrnes of the ''Daily Telegraph'' (Sydney) wrote that "Walkley award-winning journalist Sarah Ferguson has delivered some of the best TV journalism this country has ever witnessed, but Revelation might just be the pinnacle." Bridget McManus from ''The Age'' (Melbourne) gave it a four out of five star rating, calling it a "searing documentary series". Brigid Delaney, a senior writer for the ''Guardian Australia'', wrote "You'll need a strong stomach to digest Revelation's insights into child sexual abuse in the Catholic church." In The Australian Graeme Blundell wrote ''...although it is often difficult to watch, Ferguson and her exemplary production team, including executive producer Nial Fulton, principal cinematographer Aaron Smith and researchers Sophie Randerson, Kate Wild and Alison McClymont, have been able to shed light not only on their heinous atrocities but how the Catholic Church repeatedly chose secrecy over transparency and accountability. It is a confronting, awful study of a church that not only fell to decay but seems beyond renewal, achingly absent of integrity and grace.'' Blundell praises Ferguson for her restraint, saying ''...the interviews she conducts, initially with Ryan and later with Bernard McGrath, a former St John of God brother, teacher and headmaster in residential schools in Australia and New Zealand, serving 39 years for crimes against children, are harrowing and disturbing as she provokes and exposes a web of conspiracy and perversion. She tries to display no explicit emotion as she questions Ryan but can only just conceal her ethical disgust behind that journalistic veneer of taut self-control.'' The series won the prestigious Walkley Documentary Award on 20 November 2020. The Judge's citation read: “This haunting documentary broke new ground on an issue already well covered by the media and investigated by police and the Royal Commission alike. The extraordinary access to some of the Catholic Church’s most notorious perpetrators of sexual abuse against children, as well as the insight it gave viewers into court proceedings, showed just how powerful journalistic documentary-making can be.“ In December 2020, Revelation won Best Documentary Series at the Asian Academy Creative Awards.


Despite the fact his own newspaper, the Herald Sun, broke the story about George Pell's alleged sexual abuse of children in 2016 Andrew Bolt, Newscorp columnist and outspoken supporter of George Pell attacked the ABC and the filmmakers, claiming the series was part of a 'witch-hunt' against Pell. Following Pell's acquittal, other vocal supporters of Pell, including Miranda Devine and Gerard Henderson, condemned those who had reported on the story Numerous Newscorp journalists made the claim the ABC's reporting on the Pell case was 'one-sided' and 'biased.' Greg Craven, the vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University and long-time friend of Pell, accused the ABC and police of "polluting" the legal atmosphere around the cardinal's Victorian trial. The ABC responded to Craven's allegations that the broadcaster had intentionally brought forward Episode 3 of Revelation in an attempt to influence the High Court. Craven's allegations were proven to be false and he subsequently resigned. The ABC responded to the Newscorp claims, stating, ''The ABC has always acted in the public interest in reporting on the police investigation into Cardinal George Pell and in investigating other allegations made against him. The ABC firmly rejects claims that it pursued a “witch hunt” against Cardinal Pell, that it engaged in “vigilante” journalism or that it’s coverage was one-sided or unfair.'' The Guardian journalist Margaret Simmons also formed the view that the ABC's reporting on Pell did not 'step over the line.'

Awards and nominations

Response from the Catholic Church

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle responded to the imminent release of the series by issuing an open letter to their parishioners attempting to justify their failure to have convicted paedophile priest Father Vincent Ryan laicised. This was subsequently followed by a more detailed press release, including a timeline of Ryan's offending, Bishop Leo Clarke's failure to respond to Ryan's abuse, the treatment of the Nash family and Father William Burston. The report concluded that Father Vincent Ryan was "properly convicted" and that Andrew Nash "tragically committed suicide" after he was "abused by the criminal William Cable ‘Br. Romuald.’" It was also claimed that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith would recommend to Pope Francis that Ryan be laicised Following the broadcast, a plaque celebrating the life of Bishop Leo Clarke was removed from the Maitland Cathedral and an internal Catholic investigation was launched by Bishop Bill Wright regarding Father Bill Burston's interview, who told Sarah Ferguson he thought the suicide of 13-year-old Andrew Nash in 1974 was a '...prank gone wrong.' Wright confirmed the internal investigation had concluded 'some time ago' and that Burston has voluntarily agreed to not to perform mass or other church rituals. Audrey Nash had not been notified about the outcome of the investigation. The Royal Commission Case Study 43 was released in October 2020 and found that Burston knew in 1976 that there had been a complaint of 'sexually inappropriate behaviour' against notorious paedophile priest Father Vincent Ryan. Roman Catholic Diocese of Ballarat The Roman Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, Paul Bird, issued a press release on 17 March warning parishioners that they might find some of the material in the show confronting and painful. St John of God On 7 April 2020, the hospitaller order of the Brothers of St John of God posted a statement about the series on their website. The order did not deny the allegations that they had prior knowledge of Bernard McGrath's sexual offending against children under his care and moved him from Australia to New Zealand and later to the notorious Jemez Springs treatment facility run by the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, United States. Archdiocese of Sydney On 2 April 2020, the Archdiocese of Sydney responded to the allegations raised against Cardinal George Pell in episode 3 of the series by issuing a short press release.


See also

* Catholic sex abuse cases * Catholic sex scandal Australia * ''Mea Maxima Culpa'' * ''Spotlight'' * ''Deliver Us from Evil'' (2006) * ''Holy Water-Gate'' (2012 documentary) * ''Twist of Faith'' (2005)


External links

''Revelation series website''

''Revelation'' on ABC website

In Films (production company) website
{{Catholic Church in Australia Category:2020s Australian documentary television series Category:Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals in Ireland Category:Media coverage of Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals Category:Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals in the United States Category:Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals in Australia Category:True crime television series