|Accused Ex Dover Pastor May Be Defrocked
Former Monsignor Faces Fourth Sexual Abuse Claim
By Abbott Koloff
October 24, 2007
Roman Catholic officials said on Tuesday that they are considering defrocking Monsignor Ronald Tully, a former Dover pastor who cost them close to $1 million in legal settlements with men who claim he molested them when they were children.
Paterson Diocese officials made that revelation after they were asked about the fourth alleged victim of Tully to come forward — a New Jersey man who says Tully molested him more than 50 times over seven years, starting when he was eight years old in 1971.
The diocese placed Tully on administrative leave in 2004 and determined he no longer would be allowed to function as a priest, a punishment handed out to several other priests after the diocese determined allegations of child abuse against them to be credible.
The diocese has defrocked just one priest since a sexual abuse scandal broke in 2002 — James T. Hanley, a former Mendham pastor who has admitted to molesting at least a dozen children.
"The matter of laicization for Ronald Tully is under special discernment this week," said Marianna Thompson, a Paterson Diocese spokesman.
She would not be more specific, but indicated a decision about laicization could be made by the end of the week.
Tully, who now lives near Buffalo, N.Y., did not return a phone call on Tuesday. He has denied other allegations made against him. A church canon lawyer who was going to represent Tully in a church trial previously scheduled to hear other charges of abuse also did not respond to an interview request.
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney, said on Tuesday that he came to a $250,000 settlement two weeks ago for a client who lives in New Jersey. He said the client, now 45 years old, was a neighbor of Tully's in Passaic in the 1970s when the priest was head of Pope Pius XII High School, which no longer exists.
"My client wants Father Tully to know that he stood up to him by reporting him," Garabedian said. "He wants to participate in the laicization process."
Garabedian said Tully groomed his client by befriending his parents, taking them out to dinner and inviting the family to a house he owned on Long Island. Tully allegedly molested the boy while swimming with him at a Long Island beach, in his office at Pope Pius, and at several other locations, including the priest's apartment.
Garabedian said the boy was afraid to tell his parents and lived with the secret for years, deciding to go public after reading that Tully had other victims.
"He became empowered by reading about other cases," Garabedian said.
Thompson said church officials have paid "just under" $950,000 in legal settlements with four men who claim Tully abused them.
Tully was removed from Sacred Heart in Dover in 2004 after two men went public with allegations they first made against the priest in 1979.
The men, who grew up in Passaic, said in court papers filed three years ago that they were abused by the priest at his Long Island home but that their families didn't pursue criminal charges after Paterson Diocese officials promised them in 1980 that Tully no longer would be allowed to work with children.
The men said in court papers that they came forward after being informed that Tully was working at a parish and had been promoted to monsignor.
Tully was sent to Sacred Heart in 1984 and worked there for 20 years. He was removed in May, 2004 — two years after American bishops agreed to remove all priests credibly accused of child abuse.
Local church officials have acknowledged that they later agreed to monetary settlements with the two men who came forward in 2004.
Diocese officials acknowledged earlier this year making a third settlement related to Tully. A Boston-area man, represented by Garabedian, alleged that when he was 14 years old Tully shared him sexually with a Massachusetts priest.
Tully denied those allegations in a brief telephone interview with the Daily Record earlier this year and said he had not even heard about the Boston man's accusations. Church officials said at the time that Tully had been notified about the allegations.
Thompson said on Tuesday that diocese officials first heard of the latest allegations when the man making the accusations called them anonymously this past July. Garabedian said he called the diocese on the man's behalf in mid-September and a settlement was reached on Oct. 9.
He said he asked diocese officials whether they were considering laicizing Tully, but did not request the priest be defrocked.
"I was told he'd be laicized," Garabedian said.
Diocese officials laicized Hanley five years ago with the priest's permission — but they also have the option of defrocking priests involuntarily. That process, church officials have said in the past, is more difficult and takes more time.
Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 428-6636 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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