Church: Priest Can Return after Abuse Accusation

Southtown Star
September 13, 2012

Dr. Rosemary McHugh (left) and Kate Bochte speak out on behalf of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, outside of the Joliet Catholic Diocese Chancery Wednesday, September 12, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

The Joliet Diocese is allowing a priest accused of molesting a 14-year-old Joliet boy in the 1970s to return to a limited ministry.

In May 2010, after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor surfaced, the Rev. F. Lee Ryan was removed from his ministry at St. Edmund Parish in Watseka and St. Joseph Mission in Crescent City.

A spokesman for Bishop R. Daniel Conlon confirmed by email Wednesday that Ryan will be allowed “very narrow ministry” to homebound parishioners of St. Edmund Parish and St. Joseph Mission.

A written statement from Conlon said the determination was made after Catholic officials in Rome decided that, according to church law in place at the time of the abuse, Ryan did not commit a serious crime by the church’s standards and could not be permanently removed from ministry.

According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the church law in place at the time stated a 14-year-old was at an age of consent.

“This is a shocking and dangerous move by Bishop Conlon,” said a statement from SNAP, which pointed out that Conlon is in charge of children’s safety for all of America’s bishops as head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on sexual abuse.

“What part of ‘one strike and you’re out’ do Catholic officials not understand?” the SNAP statement read.

The victim, a 52-year-old man now living out of state, said Wednesday someone from the diocese told him about the decision on Ryan earlier this week.

“I was actually in disbelief. I just couldn’t believe that they would (reinstate Ryan),” said the victim, who asked that his identity be kept private.

He said Ryan established a relationship with him while he was a student at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox.

The man said Ryan would pull him out of class to smoke in a confession room and that he would sometimes drink beer with Ryan at his apartment in the evenings.

When the man told Ryan he thought he was gay, Ryan began taking him on walks through Hammel Woods forest preserve in Shorewood.

They eventually spent weekends together at an Indiana motel, he said. Ryan asked the man to call him Lee so no one would know he was a priest, the man said.

One night when the man was 16, Ryan confronted him while he was in a car parked outside a Joliet bar with another teen his age.

“(Ryan) was very angry,” the man said. “He said, ‘Aren’t God and I enough for you?’”

A few years later, the man moved out of state. He went through years of therapy. After he was laid off from a job about 20 years later, he told his mother about the abuse.

His mother told a friend who worked for then-Bishop J. Peter Sartain. An investigation began, and the man’s allegation of abuse was substantiated by the diocese.

The man is still in therapy — paid for by the diocese, he said.

Members of SNAP say they want Conlon to “immediately reverse course, keep Fr. Ryan out of ministry, and put him in a treatment center so that children will be safer.”








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