|Former Dover Pastor to Be Defrocked
Diocese Officials Say Tully Agreed to Move after Abuse Allegations
By Abbott Koloff
November 2, 2007
A former Dover pastor accused of molesting at least four boys has agreed to be removed from the priesthood, the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese announced Thursday.
Ronald Tully was removed as pastor of Sacred Heart in Dover in 2004 after two victims came forward with allegations they first made in 1979. Two more men have come forward since then to claim Tully molested them when they were children. None of the victims is from Dover, but one has allegedly been abused in the rectory of Sacred Heart parish.
Paterson Diocese officials have said they paid almost $1 million in legal settlements over the past few years to four alleged Tully victims, the latest coming last month.
Marianna Thompson, a diocese spokeswoman, told the Daily Record last week the diocese was considering removing Tully from the priesthood in a process known as laicization. The diocese issued a press release Thursday saying that Tully had volunteered to be laicized.
"Ronald Tully has requested voluntary laicization, a process which returns priests to the lay state," the press release said.
Mitchell Garabedian, who represented two of the accusers, said diocese officials told him last month they planned to laicize Tully, with or without the priest's consent. Church officials have said it is much simpler to remove someone from the priesthood when they agree to be laicized.
"I was informed that if he didn't voluntarily seek laicization, they would institute proceedings to laicize Father Tully," said Garabedian, a Boston attorney. "My clients will be extremely happy that Father Tully is being held accountable."
Tully had been denying charges of abuse, and a church trial had been scheduled to hear allegations against him. But that trial apparently won't be held now that Tully has agreed to be defrocked.
He is the third Paterson Diocese priest to face laicization since the 2002 Catholic Church sex scandal broke. Church officials don't keep statistics on laicization, but say 6,000 priests have been accused of abusing children over the past 50 years. Victim advocates estimate that 200 priests nationwide have been defrocked out of thousands of accusations made since 2002.
Paterson Diocese offices were closed on Thursday -- All Saints Day -- and officials did not return phone calls. Tully, who has been living in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, did not return a phone message.
Two alleged victims came forward in 2004 and claimed in court papers that they had been abused by Tully at his house on Long Island in 1979. The victims, who lived in Passaic at the time of the alleged assault, said they were told in 1980 by Bishop Frank Rodimer, then-head of the diocese, that Tully no longer would be allowed to work with children.
But they came forward again in 2004 when they read in a newspaper report that Tully was pastor of Sacred Heart and had been promoted to monsignor.
It is unclear why Tully wasn't removed two years before that, after American bishops signed a charter to protect children during a 2002 conference in Dallas. The charter called for the removal of all priests who had credible allegations of child abuse against them. The priests, according to the agreement, were to be laicized or live a life of penance in seclusion.
Since Tully's removal from Dover, two more victims have come forward, both represented by Garabedian.
One Massachusetts man said he was shared sexually by Tully and a Boston-area priest. He said Tully molested him in the Sacred Heart rectory in 1984.
Last week, the diocese acknowledged settling a fourth claim against Tully -- this one by a New Jersey man who says Tully molested him more than 50 times over seven years, starting in 1971, when he was 8 years old and living in Passaic.
James T. Hanley, a former Mendham pastor who has admitted molesting at least a dozen children, was the first Paterson Diocese priest to face laicization following the 2002 Dallas conference. The process was completed in 2003.
Paterson Diocese officials said last year that William L. Winston, former pastor of St. Virgil's in Morris Township, who admitted beating his wife and sexually abusing a young boy, had agreed to laicization. Winston, a former Episcopal priest, was married with children when he was ordained a Catholic priest.
Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 428-6636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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