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Sworn Statement by Rev. Michael Hands

Long Island (NY) Newsday
January 3, 2003

[See related article: Priest: Abuse Hidden: Guilty Cleric Says Monsignor Protected for His Fund-Raising Skills, by Rita Ciolli, Newsday (1/3/03).]

Excerpts from Rev. Michael Hands Sworn Statement:

Newsday does not identify the victims of sexual abuse.

Q. Tell me about the contents of those conversations?

A. The first conversation with Bishop Murphy happened after he had become bishop, (maybe about a month. He visited me in St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland when he was down for the bishop’s conference, We talked for about 45 minutes to an hour.

I was extremely forthright with my conversation about what had happened with [name withheld]. I was also honest with him that during therapy after about two and a half, three months had begun to remember and recall and speak about, for the first time, about what had happened with Father Bud Ribaudo and myself.

[Illegible]. . . through the hurt of that as well as anger issues. . . [illegible] not knowing me or Father Ribaudo, the first thing that he told me hurt me. He said that he had heard about these allegations I made about Monsignor Ribaudo and that it was sad because he had heard that he was such a talented man, and that Bud Ribaudo had gone for psychological testing locally while continuing to live on Long Island.

Monsignor Caldwell previously had told me that they wanted to sent – he wanted to send Monsignor Ribaudo to St. Luke’s Institute and I said, I kind of have a problem with that if we would be sharing a facility together with the man that I'’ accusing of sexually abusing me. He tried two or three time to have me not oppose sending him there because he thought this was good.

Q. Is this Caldwell?

A. Yes, Caldwell. Because he thought it was a good thing. Again, I went to the same kind of behavior as I done when Bud Ribaudo had originally touched me. I just tried to block the whole thing from my mind and pretend that none of this was happening. I found from St. Luke’s that they had firmly opposed him coming.

Q. Tell me about Murphy’s conversation?

A. Murphy’s conversation, he told me this again.

Q. This is Bishop Murphy?

A. Bishop Murphy told me that before he come to our diocese that when he was working as a bishop up in the Boston Archdiocese, he had handled many situations like this before, that I need not feel like I can’t talk to him. He says that he heard it all before and that he understands. And that I could tell him anything, and that he is not beyond handling such sexually explicit news.

So I did, I told him everything. And at the end of the conversation I asked him for his blessing. He gave me a blessing and he asked me for a blessing, and he left. The next conversation that I had with him directly happened in February of 2002. But I’ve had conversations with him via Frank [sic] Caldwell in between.

Q. Tell me about those conversations with Caldwell in between.

A. In the conversations with Frank [sic] Caldwell during the time I was in residential treatment at St. Luke’s, after hearing about what happened with Bud Ribaudo and subsequently talking, he had talked to some of the people in the therapeutic team about how that experience had impacted me and he was surprised. He told me that I don’t ask every time I talk to him where is Bud Ribaudo, what’s happening with Bud Ribaudo.

I said I don’t want to think about what happened, I don’t care what happened to Bud, that your business, and I hope you deal with that. And however, you deal with that, I don’t want to talk about, talk to Bud Ribaudo or anything about Bud Ribaudo. He said, do you know that there has never been a priest in the diocese that has been as psychologically evaluated as intensely as Bud Ribaudo?

He felt--- he told me that because hem unlike all the other priests, like he knew didn’t go to a residential place for intensive, it was done locally by something and he wanted to impress upon me that this was being handled very seriously, my allegation, and that they were doing whatever the procedures called for.

I’m surprised at that because I told Monsignor Caldwell about what happened in August, the end of August of 2001 in a visit he made to St. Luke’s Institute to visit me. It was an official visit and he came as the diocesan liaison, and I told him I was very raw; the day before I had this disclosure to my therapeutic small group and to the therapist and to the community, that I told the story of how Bud Ribaudo was touching me.

Q. This was what month, what year?

A. August of 2001.

Q. When did you get arrested?

A. May of 2001. And Monsignor Caldwell took the information back, He told me on a phone call the next day that --- he thanked me for my honesty, that he knew my pain and encouraged me to continue to work through this issue with the therapists. And that he has brought this information to, there was no bishop at the time officially appointed, he told Jack Alesandro who was the acting administrator of the diocese and the vicar general. And Alan Placa.

They sat down and they had a conversation about this. And as Bishop Murphy was already appointed but not arriving and that they had a lot—he had a lot on his plate planning his party, that they didn’t want to tell him about this until after the party, and that they didn’t want to tell anybody, anyone anything until after the party.

And a month went by and the party happened and Bishop Murphy was welcomed in. Frank Caldwell told me that during the first week after the party he told Bishop Murphy that, you know, Monsignor Ribaudo, very prominent priest in the diocese, well, when he was in high school Father Hands said that he had repeatedly touched him in a sexually explicit way in his office and what do we do about it? And it was at that point that he was confronted with it.

I was told by Monsignor Caldwell that at that point he was put on medical leave and had told parishioners that --- and the word through the diocese was that he was having heart-related medical attention since he had a past history of heart attacks and – but in reality he was going to psychologists to be evaluated.

I was then told by Monsignor Caldwell that in December of 2001 while I was up in the cathedral going to a court hearing at the same time I spoke to McGann that same visit, that Bishop Murphy wanted to ask me to see laitization and to leave the priesthood early, that he felt that that was in everyone’s best interest, diocese and my own.

I told him that I had already made that determination for my own reasons that I would not want to continue in the priesthood; one, that I had acknowledged that I broke a sacred bond, a sacred trust, and my complications of entering the priesthood by the coaxing of a man who had sexually abused me had made the whole thing just too problematic, and for my own health, I don’t want to, for both of those reasons, to work in that kind of capacity again.

And he said, okay, because that’s what the bishop wanted. And the other thing is that, do you know that Monsignor Ribaudo was really really evaluated and we want to reinstate him back in the parish to be the monsignor in charge of St. Dominc’s parish and high school before Christmas. Knowing what had happened and certainly the climate at the time, I couldn’t believe that they were doing this.

And I was then told that the only way that that could happen is if I promised never to talk about it, to never tell anyone. They asked me, Caldwell asked me specifically, who did you tell besides your therapist? I said well, the residential treatment community of everybody at St. Luke’s. I would have to be in large group settings and tell everybody everything that happened in my life, that that’s an important part of therapy is making that kind of disclosure and dealing with the emotions around that disclosure, and I would continue to do that.

They said, well in your legal dealings, would you not tell anyone? I said well, at this point in time I didn’t see a reason why I’m going to have to tell anybody, tell the judge. But in my case, but if I’m ever asked, I’m certainly not going to lie. That happened.

I think in telling my story to a judge, I would want to say as some sense of an understanding of sexual boundaries that were broken between myself and [name withheld], that growing up as a teenager in a very intensely vulnerable emotional place, having had sexual boundaries violated by a priest who told me that this was all being done for my good, because I was in need and that this went on to become a relationship that I had saw to be a very mentoring, that that did impact judgements and decisions that happened with [name withheld] that I see as very distorted and wrong and hurtful now. But to understand what happened, I would probably want to mention that I had this experience.

And he said, could you say that it was significant adult in your life and not mention that he was a priest? I said I could try that. I don’t believe any judge or district attorney would let it rest with that. They would want to know who actually was this person, He said, I see, I see.

I was very concerned about what would happen to me because of the legal charges, the ramifications and that when any legal requirement, whether it was incarceration or anything was finished, what would I do next? That as the bishop wanted me to move out of the priesthood and I told Monsignor Caldwell tell the bishop that I don’t want to, I’m not going to fight this with him and the Vatican and anything like that. I’m not going to make it an issue, because the bishop was concerned about that, He wanted to know what I would do.

And he also wanted to know that I was not going to talk about Bob Ribaudo and that when I would make the transition from the ministry. I said, you know, would that bishop or the diocese help me to make that transition, meaning financially. I own nothing, I have nothing, I’ve been here, I have no place too stay, and the medical insurance would drop me from that, or that I would want to leave and do this.

In the conversation that I had with Monsignor Caldwell I felt that there was a sense that they will make this agreement, that they will help me in paying my insurance and medical and help me get the therapeutic help that I need and help me to make a transition, whenever that occurs, but then it was very important that I also gave them my silence around Bud Ribaudo.

And my mother and father knew about what happened with Bud Ribaudo about a month or five weeks, even after I had these recollections of what happened. I finally told them what happened, and they were understandably upset. And my mother had mentioned to a friend of hers who is visiting them in Florida, something about this, and word of that conversation got back to someone, who told someone, who told Monsignor Caldwell. And he wanted me to call my mother or he would call my mother himself and stress with her the importance of keeping this silent, because Bud Ribaudo was now back in a parish and they wanted to keep him back in the parish.

I would agree with other priests who have since told me that in their judgment, of course they would want to keep him in the parish because there is no--- very few priests in the diocese who could bring in as much money into this parish. He’s a very important priest to keep there. They would not pull him out, they get him back. And if you shut your mouth--- at the time I thought I was the only young person that he had touched that way.

Q. Did you agree?

A. I said that I would not have the need to go on Montel Williams and something and talk about him, I don’t think that’s healing for anybody, I told you, the diocese, I told my therapists, I think I told everyone that I need to tell.

If a judge asked me or a district attorney asked me to tell the story, I will tell the story. But I don’t have an issue, I don’t think it’s helpful. It would only be in a sense of anger that I would go around and try to harangue his story, and that’s where I wasn’t in my life. I don’t think that that’s a good thing for me, that I wanted to put it in the hands of the people who have to do what they do, and that it’s really only the bishop and Caldwell and all those other people, that you’re the one who has to decide what you do with him.

Q. What was Caldwell’s reaction to that?

A. Okay, you know, that, that’s good that you won’t make an issue of this. Now, the only time that this really came up again was --- could be March of 2001, I believe the day before Newsday mentioned that I had accused Monsignor Ribaudo of, in the words of Newsday, of sexually molesting me.

Q. 2001 or 2002?

A. 2002. And Caldwell knew that that was going to be on Newsday because whoever wrote that article, I believe it was Carol [sic] Eisenberg, had called Frank Caldwell to confirm this.

How, I told Monsignor Caldwell that I’m very shocked that Carol [sic] Eisenberg has this because I’ve told no one other than in a confidential setting. I’ve spoken to the district attorney’s office that was beginning their special grand jury. And I had told them anything I knew about my situation involving [name withheld], the Bud Ribaudo situation, things that I had known about other priests, things that I knew about how the diocese had handled other priests, priests that had moved from Long Island, the diocese had moved to places like Florida, was called the Florida solution.

That I told the grand jury about other priests that had been accused, and that Alan Placa had covered thing up enough and that the priest had been moved sometime from state to state, to kind of lose the trail and ended up somewhere in the Midwest, that I knew of these things. And in the conversation--- that anything that was said to the district attorney was not going to be fed to Newsday reporters.

And the district attorney’s office today says that they never leaked it. I don’t know how they got that information.

Q. What was Caldwell’s response?

A. Well, he told me to call on the telephone.

Q. Call who?

A. Eisenberg, and deny that Bud Ribaudo molested me.

Q Caldwell told you to do this?

A. Caldwell told me to call Carol [sic] Eisenberg and deny that Bud Ribaudo ever sexually molested me or anything with me, the take, before the story was to run. I told him how could I do that? That would be false, I mean I didn’t tell Carol [sic]. I don’t know how she got this.

Because well, if you don’t do this, you’re going to destroy this man’s reputation, and he’s back in a parish. What are we going to do?

I didn’t feel that I was part of that we. I don’t know why I was included in the decision process as how the diocese handles Bud Ribaudo. He told me to think about it, and with the strongest recommendation that I should do this, Because, he said. It’s the right thing to do, to call and to deny this. I called my attorney, discussed the conversation with Caldwell and we concluded that I was going to not call Newsday, and I just let the story run as it did and was surprised that Newsday had a story that said that they had this information from sources, undisclosed sources. To this day I don’t know who told them this.

At that point, with Bud Ribaudo ‘s name and picture in the paper, I have learned that several things happened; one, that he was then pulled yet again from the parish as if this was the first time they first--- I think at this point he had retired for health reasons but was still living there, and they hadn’t quite decided who was going to take over or anything like that. But at this point they said officially that he didn’t just retire, that now he was suspended at this point. And again he seemed to disappear and no one knew where he was.

And I have learned that in the months that followed, a number of other people came forward and said--- who are now adults--- that they had done things when they were at Trinity and that from [name withheld] whose husband teaches at Trinity and did while I was there, said that during my time and before, there was suspicion among the administration and teachers that Bud Ribaudo had such a proclivity to sexually exploit young males and had done it on occasion.

Q. Caldwell told you to call the newspaper person and lie to her?

A. Yes.

Q. This is in---

A. He said to deny, He said if it’s going to run, he said you’re accused, the charge against you is that you engaged in sodomy with [name withheld], that you had oral sex with [name withheld], that people are going to read that and assume that Bud Ribaudo had sodomized you in that office and you told us that you don’t remember him doing that.

I said that’s right. I said, well, if they said that he sexually molested you, they’re going to assume that that was the level. I said, well, Frank, you don’t seem to understand that what he did to me was very traumatic to me, as if somehow there’s this calculus that depending on however an actual act goes, that that tells the kind of damage or hurt that could be done, which experience is that that’s not necessarily the case at all.

And I never used the term molest. In terms--- I never used any term at all. He said maybe you should say he acted inappropriately. I said I’m not going to say anything, I’m not making a statement to Newsday or to anybody about this who’s not in official capacity who needs to know, who isn’t somehow part of the resolution of this issue. I’m not joining in the bandwagon one way or the other to deny or to tell my plight. And he just, he just hung up the phone, and I had not spoken to him after that for maybe four, five months.

Q. Did he---

A. And he never called me again after that time. I felt that he had broken any kind of conversations that we had because I felt he was angry at me. He had told me subsequent that he felt that I wanted to not speak with him anymore. But my attorney recommended that I not call Newsday or talk about this issue with him anymore.

Q. I want to clear, though, that when he told you to call Carol Eisenberg [sic], was he specifically asking you to just say it wasn’t oral sex or ---

A. No. He wanted me to deny that Bud Ribaudo sexually molested me in any way.

 
 

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