Staten Island Advance [Staten Island NY]
July 31, 2021
A former Staten Islander alleges that he was sexually abused for several years beginning when he was a teen in the 1990s by a Roman Catholic priest who served for decades on Staten Island.
Ryan Barry, now a husband and father who lives in Pennsylvania, said in a lawsuit and a recent interview with the Advance/SILive.com that he was preyed upon by the Rev. James Garisto, a former pastor, teacher and school administrator in our borough.
“He robbed me of pretty much my whole childhood and my teenage years,” Barry said of Father Garisto.
Although solidly in recovery today, Barry believes that the alleged sex abuse triggered his long struggle with drug addiction.
“As soon as the drugs started, that’s all I did,” Barry said. “He [Father Garisto] robbed me of time with my family… It’s just frustrating that this guy got away with all of this and I’m just forgotten.”
Barry sued the Archdiocese of New York and St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School under the Child Victims Act in Manhattan state Supreme Court. Father Garisto is named as his abuser in the filing, and Barry is represented by the Marsh Law Firm and Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala.
Father Garisto “is not currently in ministry” and is “on administrative leave,” according to Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Archdiocese of New York.
A biology teacher at St. Joseph’s in the late 1980s and 1990, Father Garisto also served as vice principal and academic dean from 1996 to 1998, according to a post on the school’s Facebook page.
“Ryan was sexually abused by Father Garisto when he was approximately 15 to 21 years old” from about 1993 through 1998, according to the lawsuit.
Barry was sexually abused “in multiple locations, including in Father Garisto’s car and at Father Garisto’s house when Father Garisto would visit Ryan and counsel Ryan in his capacity as a priest,” according to the lawsuit.
“At certain times between 1993 and 1998, the defendants, through their agents servants, and employees, knew or should have known that Father Garisto was sexually abusing Ryan and other children at St. Joseph’s and elsewhere,” the lawsuit alleges. “The defendants, through their agents, servants, and employees, knew or should have known that the sexual abuse by Father Garisto of Ryan was ongoing.”
The lawsuit alleges that Barry “did in fact suffer severe emotional and psychological distress and personal physical injury as a result, including severe mental anguish, humiliation and emotional and physical distress.”
Barry said he was spurred to come forward after learning via news reports and posts on social media that Father Garisto continued to hold positions where he had access to children.
“If somebody else gets molested by a priest, maybe they’ll come forward,” Barry said, explaining why he stepped out of the shadows. “I was so angry at this man for doing what he did to me.”
Father Garisto surprised parishioners by abruptly resigning as pastor of St. Adalbert’s-St. Roch’s Roman Catholic parish in 2015 in what was his 40th year as an ordained priest.
The priest returned to St. Joseph’s in 2016 to plan alumni events following a brief stint as pastor at St. Peter’s R.C. Church in Poughkeepsie, where he had served for 16 years prior to taking the helm at St. Adalbert’s in 2014, according to Advance records and St. Joseph’s Facebook page.
Barry called the law firm after seeing an ad on TV regarding people who were sexually abused as children. “I just don’t want it to happen to any more kids,” Barry said of the sex-abuse.
Initially, Barry and his attorneys sought closure through the Archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), but said they were dissatisfied with the process and wanted to preserve his rights under the state’s Child Victims Act by filing the lawsuit.
Barry described what he regarded as years of grooming that allegedly began when he was an elementary school student.
“I wasn’t one of the best students in world, so my grades weren’t so good,” Barry said, adding that “when I put in my application for St. Joseph by-the-Sea, he [Father Garisto] came to me and told me, ‘I picked your application out of the garbage. They were going to throw you out, so now you owe me.’ That’s when the grooming started.”
During Barry’s freshman and sophomore years at the high school, Father Garisto was his biology teacher.
“He was always handsy when I was in St. Joseph by-the-Sea,” Barry said. “He would always have his my hands in my back or shoulders or whatever.”
Barry left St. Joseph’s after his sophomore year and claims that the priest pursued him while he was living with his father in Pennsylvania.
Most of the violations occurred in Father Garisto’s car and his home in Philadelphia, according to Barry.
Barry alleges that Father Garisto gave him money after the abuse.
“Every time I left or he dropped me off he would give me $100, and at that point I had such a drug addiction that $100 was just going toward drugs,” Barry said.
Barry said he began using drugs “to just make it go away” after Father Garisto “started molesting me.” He became addicted to heroin and overdosed before he eventually found sobriety.
CHILD VICTIMS ACT
Throughout his teen and adult years, Barry kept the sex abuse a secret until the IRCP program began requesting interviews with people who knew him. Although many lawsuits under the Child Victims Act have been filed anonymously, Barry decided to be named as plaintiff.
“I was fed up at that point,” Barry said, adding that the IRCP program “had me tell pretty much my whole family and friends, aunts, uncles and everybody else. I said, ‘Everybody knows now. It makes no sense not to put my name into it.’”
Barry and his attorneys grew frustrated when they say the IRCP investigation lasted from spring 2019 until July 2020 without any end in sight, despite numerous interviews with Barry and his family. They feared that the archdiocesan program could extend past the special window of opportunity to sue under the Child Victims Act and that’s when they they filed their lawsuit.
Advance records indicate that Father Garisto was well regarded during his long tenure at St. Joseph’s where he became chairman of the school’s science department in 1989. He founded and served as moderator of the biology club, which grew to become one of the school’s largest with about 100 members in 1996.
Father Garisto taught Advanced Placement Biology to seniors and was responsible for having the Advance Placement Biology program accredited by St. John’s University, thereby allowing those selected seniors taking the course to obtain college credits, according to Advance records.
He also was the moderator of the student altar servers and lectors who assisted at religious services at the school in Huguenot.
While Zwilling, the Archdiocese spokesman, did not discuss specifics of the allegations, in previous unrelated cases, he has said: “The Archdiocese of New York takes seriously all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, and treats those who bring forward allegations with dignity and respect. However, we cannot comment on specific lawsuits that are brought under the Child Victims Act.”
Attempts to obtain a phone listing for Father Garisto were not successful.