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  Priest Being Protected by Archdiocese, Accuser Says

By Gregory A. Hall
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
March 7, 2004

One of the plaintiffs who settled a sexual- abuse lawsuit with the Archdiocese of Louisville is accusing the church of protecting a priest he alleges is an abuser.

"It's business as usual," Raymond Wilberding said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Wilberding is upset about a letter he received from the archdiocese, calling on him to meet with a therapist and to report his accusations against the Rev. Donald Ryan to civil authorities.

Wilberding and Richard Lanham, another of the 243 plaintiffs in the $25.7 million settlement, both have accused Ryan of abusing them when they were children.

Ryan has denied the allegations and Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly restored him to ministry in October after the archdiocesan review board conducted an investigation.

The review board said in a statement at the time that neither of the accusers had cooperated with its investigation.

Both men later said they were contacted by the archdiocese about being interviewed by the review board while their lawsuits were pending, prior to the completion of the settlement in August. They and their attorneys later asked the archdiocese to renew its investigation of Ryan.

According to a March 4 letter to Wilberding from Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, Wilberding met with the review board on Feb. 26.

The letter from Reynolds read , "after meeting with you in person, we believe it is important for us to pursue these conflicting stories a little further." Two requests were made "i n the spirit of fairness."

The first was that Wilberding contact police or prosecutors and seek an investigation of his accusations against Ryan. The second was that Wilberding meet with a therapist to help him heal "as well as to provide us with an independent assessment of your experience."

Wilberding said yesterday that the process is "all a big sham" to protect Ryan.

"I'm very disappointed by the board's decision," he said. "I really felt like they were going to do the right thing, but obviously it's business as usual."

Wilberding said his meeting with the review board was emotional.

"I left the meeting feeling like I was totally believed," he said, noting that he was thanked repeatedly and treated with respect.

After Reynolds' letter, Wilberding said, "I want no further part of anything to do with them."

One of Wilberding's attorneys, Ross Turner, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the archdiocese's requests "would certainly appear to violate the spirit" of the charter that U.S. bishops committed to in 2002 to address childhood sexual abuse.

Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the requests do not violate the charter.

Both the charter and the archdiocese's own policy state that an accused priest may be asked to seek a medical and psychological assessment. They do not address whether an accuser may be asked to do so.

Price said the review board found last year that the allegations against Ryan could not be substantiated.

"At this point the review board needs more information before it can determine if that original decision should be reconsidered," she said .

Ryan could not be reached for comment. Turner did not have a telephone number for Lanham.

 
 

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