Diocese Settles in Sex Assault Claim
Former Dover Pastor Faces Church Trial on Abuse Allegations

By Abbott Koloff
Daily Record
January 16, 2007

Monsignor Ronald Tully Photo by The Daily Record File

Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese officials said Monday that they paid a monetary settlement to a Boston area man who said he was sexually assaulted decades ago, when he was 14, by a priest at Sacred Heart parish in Dover.

Msgr. Ronald Tully, the subject of the charges, already had been removed as Sacred Heart's pastor three years ago when other allegations of child sex abuse were made public. Local church officials said Monday that Tully is expected to have a church trial on the most recent charges along with previous allegations made by two other men.

Paterson Diocese officials indicated they have paid about $750,000 in settlements to Tully's three accusers -- saying each man received "less than $275,000."

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney, said his client, now 37, had been brought to Dover from Boston by another priest who shared him sexually with Tully.

He said Tully took his client out to dinner and to the opera over a period of six months, fondling him occasionally before sexually assaulting him in Sacred Heart's rectory in 1984. Garabedian said his client had not authorized him to disclose the amount of the settlement.

"It was extremely painful for him to come forward," Garabedian said. "He's suffered enormous emotional damages."

Marianna Thompson, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said local church officials had only been told about one act of sexual abuse, and were not aware of allegations that Tully had long-term contact with Garabedian's client.

Tully, 69, living outside of Buffalo, N.Y., denied the charges when contacted by phone.

He said a reporter's call on Monday was the first he heard about the Boston man's allegations -- although Paterson Diocese officials said he was informed immediately after church officials were made aware of the charges last spring.

"He was notified in a timely fashion," Thompson said of Tully.

Tully, when contacted Monday, would not comment on the allegations.

"Oh, God," he said when he was told about them. "I know nothing about it. ... I deny it. ... I'm not going to talk about it."

Tully had been removed from Sacred Heart two years before, in 2004, after two men came forward about allegations they had made against Tully in 1979. They said in court papers that church officials promised their families in 1980, before Tully was sent to Dover, that the priest never again would work with children. They said they had been abused by Tully at the priest's Long Island vacation home when they were 14 and 15 and attended a Passaic parochial school.

They said they came forward after reading that Tully had been promoted to monsignor and was a pastor at Sacred Heart. When Tully was removed from his position two years ago, church officials said he no longer would be allowed to function as a priest.

Statute of limitations

Paterson Diocese officials said they learned of the latest charges against Tully sometime last spring, when Boston church officials faxed them a copy of a letter they received from Garabedian. Thompson said local church officials immediately called Morris County law enforcement authorities. Garabedian said authorities told him the criminal statute of limitations has run out on the case. Thompson also said the diocese offered counseling for the accuser and started a dialogue with Garabedian, which the attorney said led to a settlement in September.

"They wanted to resolve the case immediately," Garabedian said. "They didn't question my client's allegations at all."

Church officials would not comment on the allegations. They said they do not have a timetable for a church trial for Tully, which already had been planned before the latest allegations were made. They said other church trials planned years ago for priests accused of abusing children also have yet to take place.

J. Michael Ritty, a canon lawyer who church officials previously identified as Tully's advocate, would not comment on the matter Monday. He also would not verify whether he represents Tully.

"I have no information you're looking for," he said.

Response in Boston

Garabedian said the Boston Archdiocese is still reviewing allegations his client made against a priest there. Boston church officials were unavailable for comment, their offices closed Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

The attorney alleges that the Boston priest molested his client in the Boston area and used to bring him to Dover, starting in 1983, to meet with Tully. The attorney said Tully sexually abused his client only in New Jersey, while the other priest sexually abused his client only in Massachusetts. The three of them, Garabedian said, used to go out to expensive dinners, and to the theater and opera in New York City. They sometimes were accompanied by a third priest who did not sexually abuse his client, Garabedian said.

The attorney said Tully always paid for dinner and offered gifts to his client. He said Tully fondled the 14-year-old over his clothes on five occasions over six months in the vestibule of Sacred Heart. Garabedian said Tully sexually assaulted his client during their last meeting, in the Sacred Heart rectory. When his client refused to perform a certain sex act, Garabedian said, Tully became angry.

"That was the last contact my client had with him because Msgr. Tully was so irate," Garabedian said.

Another case

In the Long Island case, the alleged victims said in court papers that Tully got them drunk before fondling one boy and pulling down the pants of the other to molest him. They said they locked themselves into a bedroom, jumping out a window while Tully banged on the door. Police charged Tully with sex abuse and two counts of endangering children. The charges were dismissed as part of a court agreement.

The mother of one of the alleged victims said in court papers filed two years ago that a nun, then principal of the parochial school her son attended, threatened her family with deportation if they pursued the charges. The attorney for the alleged victims said in court papers that other church officials told his clients' families that Tully never again would work with children.

Abbott Koloff can be reached at (973) 989-0652 or


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