2 D.M. Priests Removed by Pope for Sex Abuse

Des Moines Register [Iowa]
November 16, 2006

Two Iowa priests accused of sexually abusing minors have been removed from the priesthood by Pope Benedict XVI, the Des Moines Diocese announced Thursday.

Bishop Joseph Charron had requested the action against Richard Wagner and John Ryan, and the men agreed to it. If they'd fought the request, the pope could have ordered them defrocked, which would have carried similar effects but a more punitive connotation.

Catholic leaders announced in 2003 that the men were being relieved of all priestly duties because of credible accusations that they'd molested minors.

Wagner was a high-profile priest, serving as principal of Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines from 1971 to 1976.

Allegations against himsurfaced in 1993. They concerned abuse of a female high school student in the late 1980s, when Wagner was pastor at St. Mary Parish in Red Oak. After the allegations were made, the church quietly removed Wagner from Red Oak, sent him to treatment, then allowed him to continue a restricted ministry in Des Moines.

Ryan was ordained in 1950 and retired in 1988. He was accused of molesting adolescent boys while he served at St. Theresa parish in Des Moines in the 1980s.

Ryan also had ties to Dowling, where he taught from 1953 to 1965.

Under the action announced Thursday, the men were "laicized."

"As a result of these actions, John Ryan and Richard Wagner are no longer priests of the Diocese of Des Moines and may not exercise priestly ministry or identify themselves as priests," Bishop Charron said in a press release.

Charron had recommended in 2003 that the pope defrock the two men and a third priest, Albert Wilwerding, who later died.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.