Paterson Diocese Settles Sex Abuse Case from 1977
By Abbott Koloff
September 14, 2015
The Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese acknowledged Monday that it settled yet another case of sexual abuse allegations against Monsignor Ronald J. Tully, this time involving a woman who accused the one-time Passaic Catholic high school administrator of repeatedly fondling her decades ago.
The diocese now has paid at least nine victims an estimated $2.1 million to settle cases of abuse against Tully, who has been barred from working as a priest since 2004. In the latest case, the first against Tully to involve a female victim, the accuser alleges that Tully fondled her 20 times in 1977 when she was a 16-year-old student at Pope Pius High School in Passaic. Tully was then the high school’s vice principal.
Mitchell Garabedien, the woman’s Boston-based attorney, said his client came to him several months ago after having a conversation about Tully with someone who gave her “the courage to come forward.” The woman, who still lives in New Jersey, hopes her actions will encourage other women to come forward, whether about Tully or other cases, Garabedian said.
Paterson Diocese attorney Ken Mullaney confirmed the settlement and said local church officials filed paperwork to Rome at least three years ago to defrock Tully, who will continue to receive a pension until that process, known as laicization, is completed. Mullaney said he has been “scratching my head” over why it has taken so long.
Tully, who previously denied allegations against him but agreed to be laicized, could not be reached for comment Monday. He did not respond to a message left at his last known residence in New York state.
A group representing victims of abuse by priests, known as Road to Recovery, has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. todayTuesday outside Paterson Diocese headquarters on Valley Road in Clifton to discuss the latest settlement.
Garabedian said his client was paid “six figures” but declined to provide a specific amount. He has represented seven of the nine Tully accusers, saying they were abused in various locations between 1971 and 1983 and ranged in age from 8 to 16.
Tully was removed from his position as pastor of a Dover church in 2004 after local church officials and their attorneys reviewed information about criminal charges brought against him related to the alleged sexual abuse of two Pope Pius students at his Long Island vacation home in 1979.
“I determined that Tully should be removed,” Mullaney said, adding that he paid a visit to Bishop Frank Rodimer, then head of the diocese, to advise him of his conclusion. “The bishop acted on my advice immediately,” Mullaney said.
The case came to light 11 years ago when the two male students, now adults, came forward after reading in a newspaper article that Tully was a parish pastor. The criminal charges related to their allegations had been dismissed and court documents sealed years before after the priest agreed to enter a program for first-time offenders, the men said in court papers filed in 2004 asking for the case to be unsealed. They said that church officials promised their families decades ago that Tully never again would work with children.
Garabedian said the woman he represents said that she reported Tully’s behavior in 1977 to the school principal, a nun who has since died. The victim, the attorney said, quit school and received an equivalency diploma. Garabedian said the allegations, which are beyond the criminal statute of limitations, were reported about a month ago to the diocese and the Passaic police.
Mullaney said the settlement is not an admission of “fact or liability,” and that church officials did not conduct a hearing related to the allegations because Tully already is stripped of his priestly faculties. The diocese review board, he said, reviews abuse cases to determine whether priests should be placed on leave.
“There’s really no reason to have a review board meeting because it’s a fait accompli,” Mullaney said.