Why did Father Daniel Lyne vanish from the Catholic priesthood?

By a Broken Rites researcher

A victim has made a submission to Australia's national Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, telling how the Catholic religious order of Passionist priests covered up for a serious child-abuser, Father Daniel Lyne.

Father Daniel Lyne CP was a member of the Catholic order of Passionist priests in Australia (officially known as the "Congregation of the Passion", or CP). He held a number of influential positions within the order for thirty years until he vanished from the order in the 1990s.

From about 1964 to about 1968, Daniel Lyne was a spiritual director of students at a "juniorate" which the Passionists conducted at St Ives, in north-western Sydney). In a juniorate, boys could complete their secondary education before proceeding to a theological college. Students at a juniorate might be as young as 16 (completing their school Leaving Certificate) or even as young as 14. Their families trusted the Passionist Fathers to look after these boys.

As "spiritual director" of students at St Ives, Lyne held responsibility for the well-being of some very vulnerable young males. One of his favourite roles at St Ives was to meet individual students in private for the sacrament of Confession. This enabled him to discuss personal matters with a student, especially issues of sexuality. This gave him power over a student.

In 1968 or 1969, Lyne he was appointed as rector of the Passionist theological college (Holy Cross College) at Templestowe in Melbourne.

Lyne served a time in a leadership role at the Australian headquarters of the Passionist Fathers in Sydney.

Later in his career, Lyne left Australia to work in Catholic juniorates overseas — in Africa (possibly Nigeria) and India.

After he returned to Australia, the final stage of his career is unclear. Some time in the early 1990s, he disappeared from the Passionist order. Broken Rites has discovered that, in the 1994 edition of the Directory of Australian Catholic Clergy (published by the National Council of Priests), he was still listed as a Passionist priest — under the heading of St Brigid's Retreat, a Passionist house in Marrickville in Sydney's South. But his name vanished from subsequent editions.

Some people (e.g., his former students at the juniorate or the theological college) asked the Passionist order about Lyne's whereabouts but they were told that he had "left Australia" (and that he had gone "to the United States"), but it is believed that, in fact, he continued to live (privately) in Sydney.

In 1994 a former student at the St Ives juniorate inquired at the Passionist headquarters about Daniel Lyne, and was told that Lyne "has been laicised" and that the Passionists were helping him to re-establish his life outside the order.

In 2002, while Daniel Lyne was facing the likelihood of a criminal prosecution, he suddenly died ("just in time", before court proceedings could begin). Thus, he evaded a possible jail sentence.

When former students sought more information about Daniel Lyne's reported death, they were told by the Passionists that the Lyne family "wanted to keep the matter very private".

It is interesting that there is no little information available about a man who had such a profound effect on an organisation (and on the youths who were in his care and custody).

In the 1994 Directory of Australian Catholic Clergy (the last edition that included Fr Daniel Lyne), the Passionists had 57 priests in Australia. At that time (when Lyne was apparently "laicised") the order's Australian head (called the Provincial) was Father Kevin Dance — therefore Father Dance would know the story of Fr Daniel Lyne. Fr Kevin Dance later played a significant role in administering the Catholic Church's national response to the issue of clergy sexual abuse in Australia (the church's Towards Healing program) on behalf of the church's National Committee for Professional Standards.

It believed that Lyne's first name, when he was born, was Gerald. On joining the Passionists, he adopted the religious name "Daniel".

Several former students, who were aspiring to join the Passionist priesthood, have contacted Broken Rites (separately), telling us about how Fr Daniel Lyne targeted them. These victims, now middle-aged, still feel hurt by the way in which the church harboured and protected Father Daniel Lyne.