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  Illinois Bishop Is Accused of Sexually Abusing a Minor
Bishop Ryan Denies Charge That He Abused Boy Once in 1980s

By Patricia Rice
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
September 4, 2002

Bishop Daniel L. Ryan, the former leader of the Roman Catholic diocese in Springfield, Ill., has stopped all public ministry while the church investigates an allegation that he sexually abused a minor.

The Springfield diocese includes Madison, Clinton and Calhoun counties in the Metro East area.

Frank Sigretto alleges that Ryan, 72, had sexual relations with him one time at the bishop's Springfield residence in the mid-1980s, when Sigretto was 14, said his lawyer, Frederick Nessler.

Ryan, who retired in 1999, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A diocesan spokeswoman said Ryan has denied the allegations.

Sigretto, a Springfield resident, met Tuesday afternoon with current Springfield Bishop George Lucas, according to Nessler.

The lawyer brought Sigretto's allegations to the diocese in June. At the time, he was meeting with Sigretto in preparation for a civil lawsuit against the diocese by another man. Sigretto made a polygraphed statement in that case.

In June, Sigretto's polygraph statement was forwarded to Sangamon County State's Attorney Office, which took no action.

"We looked at it, and the statute of limitations had expired," said the State's Attorney John Schmidt.

Ryan has been the subject of controversy before.

In 1997 and 1998, a group called Roman Catholic Faithful had picketed a national bishops conference in Washington and carried signs alleging Ryan was protecting abusive priests.

The Vatican announced Ryan's retirement in 1999 when he was 69. The sudden announcement, shortly before Christmas, surprised his friends. Generally, only ill or mentally impaired bishops are removed from office before the Vatican's traditional retirement age of 75. Some energetic bishops remain in office until they are 80.

Ryan, who began his ministry in the Joliet diocese, continued to have a public role confirming children and celebrating Mass.

Lucas and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as a group, hold no official power over bishops. Therefore, the Charter for the Protection of the Children and Young People, which bishops approved in June in Dallas, has no policing or removal action for bishops, just for priests and religious brothers.

Only the pope can remove a bishop.

Shortly after returning from Dallas, Lucas was told of the Sigretto allegations. Lucas and others spoke to Ryan, who agreed to cease all public ministry during the investigation.

"Bishop Ryan voluntarily agreed to suspend his public ministry," said Kathie Sass, a spokeswoman for the diocese.

At Lucas' direction, Sigretto's allegations will be investigated by a lay review board in another diocese to prevent any possibility - or even the appearance of - a conflict of interest, Sass said. Lucas is declining to say which diocese, she said.

Lucas declined to be interviewed Tuesday. Lucas, a St. Louis native, is former rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and former vicar general of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Ryan lives in a suite of rooms in the diocese's Springfield retirement center, a wing of the diocesan pastoral center. He is not under supervision during the investigation period, Sass said. Canon law requires that a retired bishop be allowed to live in the diocese where he once presided, unless the Vatican intervenes.

= = = =

Springfield, Ill., Catholic diocese

* 154,931 Catholics

* The diocese covers 15,139 square miles including 28 central Illinois counties from the Wabash to the Mississippi rivers, including the Metro East counties of Madison, Clinton, Calhoun and Bond.

* 164 parishes (63 without resident pastors)

* 54 elementary schools

* 2 high schools

* Leader, since 1999, Bishop George Lucas

* 100 active diocesan priests

* 34 retired, sick or absent priests

* 62 priests who are members of religious orders

Source: The 2001 Official Catholic Directory

NOTES:

Reporter Patricia Rice: E-mail: price@post-dispatch.com Phone: 314-340-8221; * Note: A shorter version of this report ran in the FIVE STAR LIFT, page B3, without the graphic.

CORRECTION-DATE: September 5, 2002

CORRECTION:

The Belleville Catholic diocese includes parishes in Clinton County. In the story below, Clinton County was incorrectly described as being within the boundaries of another Illinois diocese.

 
 

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