|Ex-Dover Pastor's Accusers Get $450k
Paterson Diocese Says It Is $37 Million in Debt
By Abbott Koloff
April 4, 2008
Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese officials acknowledged Thursday that they recently paid settlements to two additional alleged victims of Monsignor Ronald Tully -- a former Dover pastor who now has been accused by six men of molesting them as children decades ago.
Church officials said they have paid a total of $1.4 million to a half dozen alleged Tully victims and a total of $12.8 million to settle sex abuse charges against priests made since 2002.
That acknowledgement comes the same week that Paterson Diocese officials announced they are $37 million in debt and considering some cost-cutting moves. Marianna Thompson, a diocese spokeswoman, said on Thursday the payments to sex abuse victims all came from a self-insurance fund, none from donations, and are unrelated to the debt.
The two most recent sex abuse allegations were made by men who attended St. Rose of Lima Church in East Hanover as children. Both said they were fondled on one occasion by Tully at the priest's Long Island home, according to their attorney, Mitchell Garabedian. They each received $225,000 from the diocese in settlements made this year, the latest in mid-March.
Tully, who was removed as pastor of Sacred Heart in Dover in 2004, agreed late last year to be defrocked, church officials have said.
One of the recent allegations involves another priest from Morris County, the Rev. Ralph Sodano. Garabedian said Sodano drove one of his clients to Tully's Long Island home in 1976 and that other boys were at the house, wearing only their underwear while watching television. He said Sodano and Tully told the boy to remove most of his clothes. Tully later allegedly fondled the boy, Garabedian said, although Sodano did not touch him.
Sodano had been removed in 2002 as pastor from Our Lady of the Mountain in Washington Township after two people came forward with allegations of abuse. Church officials said they later found those allegations to be credible. Thompson said Sodano now has four allegations against him, with two resulting in monetary settlements. The two allegations from 2002 did not lead to settlements, she said, because those alleged victims didn't ask for money.
Both Tully and Sodano are barred by the diocese from working as priests.
Sodano, who now lives in Florida, said he had not heard about the most recent allegation and declined further comment when contacted by phone Thursday.
"The diocese didn't let me know about it," Sodano said. "I haven't talked to my lawyer so I can't respond. I don't understand why this is in the press."
Thompson said that Sodano was notified through his canon lawyer.
"His canononical representative was informed and shared information with him," Thompson said.
Tully had made a similar statement to the Daily Record last year, saying he had not been notified of an accusation against him that led the diocese to pay a settlement to an alleged victim. Diocese officials said at the time that he had been notified. Tully, who now lives near Buffalo, N.Y., did not respond to a phone message Thursday. A canon lawyer who represents both Tully and Sodano also did not respond to a phone message.
Tully was removed from Sacred Heart in 2004, after working there for 20 years, when two men came forward with allegations they had made decades before, when they lived in Passaic. The two men alleged that Tully abused them as children at his Long Island house in 1979. They said in court papers that they agreed not to pursue criminal charges, which had been filed on Long Island, after church officials told them in 1980 that Tully never again would work around children.
Four years later, Tully was sent to Dover.
Last year, a Massachusetts man alleged that as a child he had been sexually shared by Tully and a Boston priest in the 1980s, and had been sexually abused by Tully in the Dover rectory. Another man later alleged that Tully, his former neighbor in Passaic, had abused him more than 50 times starting when he was 8 years old in 1971.
Tully denied wrongdoing in a brief interview with the Daily Record last year. Church officials said he later agreed to be defrocked, a process known as laicization. Church officials said Thursday that the paperwork had been filed with the Holy See in Rome. They also have said in the past that Sodano faces a church trial on allegations made against him. Thompson said on Thursday that the diocese "continues to pursue a canonical process" in his case.
Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 428-6636 or email@example.com.
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