Priest Getting Treatment after Being Charged with Child Porn

By Lisa De Nike
Baltimor Messenger
December 19, 2001

The 35-year-old Cathedral of Mary Our Queen priest arrested last week on charges of possessing child pornography is receiving in-patient treatment at a Silver Spring psychiatric hospital.

The Rev. Thomas A. Rydzewski was admitted Dec. 14 to the St. Luke Institute after U.S. Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar agreed to amend his original order, giving custody of the associate priest to his parents.

"It is my understanding that the Cardinal William Keeler made the decision that Father Rydzewski should go to St. Luke's," said Ray Kempisty, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Rydzewski was arrested by FBI agents on Dec. 12 at his residence in the rectory of the church in the 5300 block of North Charles Street.

According to an affidavit filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andre Norman, agents found in both the rectory and the priest's parents' home in Arnold compact discs, printouts and photographs of underage boys and girls engaged in sexual acts.

The affidavit also stated that the archdiocese alerted the FBI that Rydzewski might be buying child pornography over the Internet after someone brought it to their attention.

Rydzewki's lawyer, Max Lauten, appeared with him during his hearing in federal court on Dec. 12.

Lauten, who works for the downtown firm of Kramon and Graham, was hesitant to discuss the case.

"At this point, the charge is possession of child pornography only," he said. "There has been no suggestion of improper contact with a minor or attempted improper contact with a minor."

Pending further investigation of the charges, the archdiocese has placed Rydzewski on administrative leave and rendered him unable to perform his usual ministerial duties, Kempisty said.

Though Rydzewski's position at the cathedral put him in almost daily contact with children at the church and its school, The School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, archdiocesan officials say there have been "no reports" that the associate pastor harmed any children.

"We've not received any information to that effect, and we were very proactive about seeking input," Kempisty said.

The day after Rydzewski's arrest, the archdiocese sent home with every student who attends the cathedral school letters outlining the situation.

Letters also went home with students attending St. Agnes' School in Catonsville _ and Cardinal Gibbons High School.

"Father Rydzewski's first assignment after being ordained at the cathedral in 1998 was at St. Agnes, where he was associate pastor," Kempisty said. "He also served as chaplain at Cardinal Gibbons once or twice a week."

Kempisty said the archdiocese has received "half a dozen" calls of support for Rydzewski since his arrest last week.

Founded in 1980 on the site of a former Catholic convent, St. Luke Institute provides psychiatric help with a spiritual emphasis for clergy struggling with a variety of problems, from depression and alcoholism to sexual disorders.

"Respecting their particular vocation, the St. Luke Residential Program places special emphasis on strengthening and rebuilding the spiritual life of the priest or religious," says a page from St. Luke's Web site.


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