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  Retired Priest, 75, Is Charged with Raping Girl in 1965
Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn Also Is Accused of Sexually Assaulting a 21-Year-Old Woman 14 Years Ago

By Doane Hulick
Providence Journal-Bulletin
March 29, 1996

Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn, 75, former pastor of St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church in Providence, was charged yesterday with raping a 14-year-old girl 31 years ago.

In addition, he was charged with first-degree sexual assault of a 21-year-old woman 14 years ago.

The charges against the retired priest are outlined in a two-count indictment that was unsealed yesterday by Superior Court Judge Frank Williams.

Williams set bail at $ 10,000, with surety, after Monsignor Dunn pleaded innocent to the charges, and scheduled a pre-trial hearing for May 1.

Upon learning of the indictment, the Most Rev. Louis E. Gelineau, Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, said in a written statement, "This is a sad and difficult situation for all parties involved, but we have been cooperating with the attorney general's office in their investigation.

"Whether or not Monsignor Dunn has actually violated any criminal laws, however, will be determined by due process of law."

Monsignor Dunn was pastor of St. Thomas Church for 28 years until February 1994, when Bishop Gelineau ordered him placed on administrative leave.

At the time, Gelineau said he had taken the action after learning that a woman had accused the priest of sexual misconduct.

Now 75, Monsignor Dunn lives in a Providence home for retired priests.

He is also the defendant in two civil suits. Last December, Mary Ryan, 34, of Burrillville, filed a suit alleging that he had sexually abused her and that the Diocese of Providence had ignored her complaints.

In a statement released by Survivor Connections, a Cranston group that advocates for sexual-abuse victims, Ryan is quoted as saying when she filed the suit: "I loved and honored and respected Louis Ward Dunn as a priest, a holy representative of God, as I was taught in my good Catholic upbringing."

Ryan, now married and the mother of three young children, said that Bishop Gelineau had twice canceled meetings with her to discuss her allegations.

The indictment accuses Monsignor Dunn of having sexually assaulted Ryan in 1982.

The other civil suit against him came last March from a 44-year-old Charlestown woman, Phyllis Hutnak, who alleged that he had sexually assaulted her in 1967, when she was a teenager.

The other count in the indictment unsealed yesterday relates to an incident in which Monsignor Dunn is alleged to have raped a 14-year-old girl in South Kingstown in 1965, when he was pastor of Christ the King parish.

Although the rape and the sexual assault alleged in the indictment occurred years ago, the state has the authority to prosecute the priest, because there is no statute of limitations on either offense.

"Repressed memories"

Monsignor Dunn is one of nine priests named in Rhode Island Supreme Court papers as being accused in civil suits of sexual molestation. The others are Robert Marcantonio, Robert A. Carpentier, Richard Meglio, William C. O'Connell, Henry Leech, James M. Silva, Alfred Derosiers and Edmond C. Micarelli.

None currently performs priestly duties. Four of the nine - Monsignor Dunn, O'Connell, Silva and Leech - have been criminally charged.

In December, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether people molested when they were minors by Rhode Island priests may pursue lawsuits against Bishop Gelineau and others in the Catholic Church who, say the plaintiffs, were part of a conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse in local parishes.

One question the court has been asked to decide is whether an inability to recall incidents of sexual abuse constitutes a "disability," justifying extending the statute of limitations for civil actions.

Many of the plaintiffs' allegations of sexual abuse date back 20 to 30 years. Some cases involve "recovered repressed memories." Others involve plaintiffs who had no memory problems but who only recently connected such conditions as alcoholism, severe depression and sexual dysfunction to childhood molestation by their priests.

 
 

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