Protesters: Accused Priest Should Not Be in Active Ministry

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post [Bridgeport CT]
Downloaded November 17, 2003

Protesters handed out leaflets Sunday outside St. Augustine Cathedral and a New Fairfield church in opposition to an active priest accused of molesting a young teenage girl.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, joined members of local victims' support groups in the protest of the refusal of the diocese to suspend Monsignor Martin Ryan.

"We are distraught over Bishop William Lori's decision to keep an admitted molester in active ministry, thus violating the charter and his pledge to put the safety of children first," Clohessy said as he handed out leaflets outside the cathedral Sunday afternoon. "Lori's decision is a gross violation of the zero tolerance policy toward sexual abuse Lori and other church leaders have promised."

Ryan, pastor of St. Edward the Confessor parish in New Fairfield, has been accused of molesting the girl in the 1970s when she was a member of the Catholic Youth Organization at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull.

The diocese recently agreed to pay the woman as part of a $21 million settlement to 40 people who claimed they were abused by priests in the diocese.

Despite the diocese's claim of "transparency" when it comes to allegations against priests, the woman's claims were first made public by the Connecticut Post last year.

During a Memorial Day weekend in either 1975 or 1976, when she was 15 or 16 years old, the woman said she was in the St. Theresa's rectory when Ryan called her into his office. "He said he had to show me something in his office," she said.

When she entered his office, the woman claimed Ryan grabbed her and began French-kissing her. She said he fondled her breasts through her clothes.

When she tried to pull away, the woman said Ryan responded: "Isn't this something you always wanted?"

"I said, 'No,' and I was fighting to get away and he said, "This is all your fault, so you better not tell anyone.' "

The woman said she broke free and ran away, finally stopping to sit beneath some trees where she began sobbing uncontrollably.

She said she told a girlfriend, who then told her the same thing had happened to her.

She said diocese lawyer Michael Dolan later told her he had located her friend, who, along with her sister, claimed Ryan abused them.

She said diocesan officials told her Ryan was having "issues with celibacy. "

Jim Alvord, of Norwalk, a member of the lay reform group Voices of the Faithful, joined Clohessy outside the cathedral.

"The diocese's action in this case flies in the face of everything we were brought up to believe," he said.

Maria Garcia, a parishioner at St. Augustine's, stopped to read a flier handed her by SNAP New York chapter head David Cerulli.

"This is a big problem that can drive us from the church," she said. "I hope it never happens again."

"Monsignor Martin Ryan has the full support of Bishop Lori; the diocese; the independent professionals on the Diocesan Review Board, who reviewed his case thoroughly, several times; and the members of his own parish," said diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer.

"This has not changed, and has been our public position for more than one year. Monsignor Ryan does not pose a threat to anyone. He will remain in active ministry, and is entitled like anyone else to his good name."

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