Woman Sues Priest for Child Support
By Manya A. Brachear
January 11, 2006
When a sad twist of fate reunited Sandra Ring with her former high school sweetheart in 2003, it seemed to prove to the heartbroken Canadian that God works in mysterious ways.
Ring's one-time sweetheart Jason Martin was a Roman Catholic priest. Within seven months, Martin vowed to leave the priesthood, proposed marriage and fathered a son, according to allegations in a lawsuit that Ring filed in a Canadian court.
But in July 2004, Martin's religious order, the Discalced Carmelite Friars, transferred him to Chicago, where he now recruits candidates in the Midwest. Ring sued Martin, 33, and the Carmelites for child support.
"In essence he played house and decided he liked priest life better," said Ring, 32, of Ingersoll, Ontario. "And the church is protecting him without any regard for [his son]."
On Tuesday, advocates for survivors of clergy abuse presented Cardinal Francis George with a plea to make Martin fulfill his responsibilities as a parent and pay up.
Martin could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The American provincial superior and attorney for the order did not return calls on Tuesday.
The religious order told Ring it would pay a monthly stipend of $213 if Martin is indeed the child's father, according to a July 6 letter from Martin's attorney, Denise Korpan, that Ring made available to the Tribune. Ring also provided results of a paternity test administered in December by Orchid Helix, a Canadian genetic testing firm, that conclude he is the father.
Ring said she received $1,000 in prenatal care from Martin. And in a Dec. 21, 2004, letter that Ring made available, a Martin attorney said, "After a great deal of consideration, at this time Jason wishes his involvement with the child to be financial only."
But Ring said she would not settle for a paltry sum that does not include costs of health insurance or education, while all of the expenses incurred by Martin--who took a vow of poverty--continue to be covered by the church. She said she also wants Martin to own up to the promises he made to her other son from a previous marriage.
"First and foremost my son doesn't have a father. He only has one parent," Ring said in a telephone interview. "I'm trying to do what I can to lay a foundation for a good life for him. And they're fighting me all the way."
According to Ring's lawsuit, Ring and Martin reunited in May 2003 when Ring, married to another man, sought counseling to deal with the loss of a daughter who died in childbirth. In the months that followed, their relationship was rekindled and he began to talk of leaving the priesthood, the lawsuit alleges.
In January 2004, Martin told his parish pastor, Rev. Dominic Borg, that he was not called to be a priest, Borg said in a telephone interview Tuesday. Borg said he did not know about Ring at the time. He said he kept in touch with Martin only to provide financial support through his professional transition and quest to become a lawyer. Martin charged expenses for Ring and her family on a church credit card for several months in 2004, according to the lawsuit.
"I don't think he told me the truth," said Borg, pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in London, Ontario. "For me it's all a mystery as much as it was for Sandra. For Sandra, it wasn't a mystery. She knew he was a priest."
But like Borg, Ring said she believed Martin had severed ties with the priesthood. According to the lawsuit, he proposed marriage, implored her to stop using birth control and insisted that the son from her previous marriage call him "Daddy." A wedding date was set for Aug. 28, 2004, the lawsuit said.
But on July 7, 2004, Ring said Martin had a change of heart and ended the engagement. Provincial superiors in Canada transferred him to Chicago to live in the order's rectory and serve as its vocational director, Borg said. Ring said she learned she was pregnant two weeks later.
Colleen Dolan, director of communications for the Chicago archdiocese, said George does not oversee religious orders and cannot force them to take action.
Martin was granted faculties to celebrate the sacraments in the archdiocese, based on a recommendation from his superiors, she said, adding that the cardinal would wait for Martin's superiors to respond before he decides whether Martin can remain an active priest.
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