Abuse Case Going to Top Court

By Michael Mello
Woonsocket Call [Providence RI]
September 18, 2003

PROVIDENCE -- Mary Ryan turned down $400,000 to settle her civil suit against the Diocese of Providence, then suffered the indignity of seeing her case dismissed.

The Burrillville woman on Wednesday said she has no regrets about turning down the money. She promised to continue trying to force the diocese to release records of priests accused of sexual abuse.

"I will be appealing, even though I feel there is almost no hope," said Ryan, a mother of four. "This has been a very, very hard time for me ... but it was never about the money.

"Within my conscience I couldn't (settle) because of the circumstances. There was no culpability, no liability" for the diocese, she said.

Last month Superior Court Judge Robert Krause said Ryan filed her 1995 lawsuit more than 10 years past what's allowable under law and dismissed her case. Ryan represented herself. She plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Ryan is the only one of 38 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rhode Island who did not join a $14.25 million settlement with the diocese involving allegations against 11 priests and a nun. She said she wanted to force the diocese to release records she believes might show more cases of abuse than have so far been uncovered.

Attorney Tim Conlon, who represented many of the plaintiffs who settled last year, said he and other attorneys have had discussions with the diocese about another 20 to 40 potential cases.

The diocese has acknowledged the recent discussions but has denied it has hidden substantiated cases of abuse by clergy members.

A spokesman for the diocese did not immediately return a call on Wednesday.

The late Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn was convicted of raping Ryan. She was 17 years old in 1978, when Dunn began to sexually molest her, according to court documents. The sexual advances continued until she was 21, ending in 1982.

He was given a suspended sentence in 1999. The former pastor of St. Thomas Church in Providence died in 2001.

Survivor Connections Inc., a Cranston-based referral center for victims of sexual abuse, is establishing a fund to collect donations to help Ryan appeal the dismissal of her civil case.

"Mary was right in doing what she did. Taking it to court wasn't about the money," said Frank Fitzpatrick, who runs the nonprofit center and is himself a victim of abuse by a priest.

Ryan said the disappointment of seeing her case dismissed was eased by the support of her family and her resolve to keep fighting.

"It wasn't a terrible thing," she said.


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