Accused Child Molester Leaving Priesthood

By John Chadwick
November 2, 2007

The former director of a Catholic high school in Passaic may become the second Roman Catholic priest in North Jersey to be forced from the priesthood in connection with the church sexual abuse scandal.

The Paterson Diocese said Thursday that Monsignor Ronald J. Tully is seeking "voluntary laicization" -- a process that would permanently strip him of his priestly status and render him a layperson.

Tully, who ran the now-closed Pope Pius XII Regional High School, was accused of molesting four boys during the period from 1971 to 1984. The allegations surfaced in the past several years after accusers broke decades of silence. The diocese settled the claims out of court for about $950,000.

A diocesan spokeswoman declined comment Thursday, saying only that Tully has asked the diocese to petition the Vatican for removal from the priesthood. The process can take several months, with church officials in Rome making the final decision.

"We are just reporting what Monsignor Tully has requested," said Marianna Thompson, using the honorary title that Tully received from the Vatican in 1988.

But an attorney for two of the victims said Tully was pressured to seek laicization -- which is considered the harshest in-house punishment that the church can mete upon abuser priests.

"I was informed that the Paterson Diocese would institute the proceeding if Father Tully did not voluntarily seek laicization," said Mitchell Garabedian of Boston.

Garabedian said his clients are "elated that Father Tully will be laicized, and they just hope that he will be prevented from sexually molesting other innocent children."

Tully, who is thought to be living out of state, couldn't be reached for comment.

He left active ministry in 2004 after two former students from the high school came forward to say that in 1979, the priest plied them with alcohol and molested them in the living room of his summer home in Long Island.

The boys called the police at the time, but their families declined to press charges after the bishop at the time, Frank Rodimer, promised that Tully would never work with children, court documents say.

Tully was transferred to a Dover Church where he was eventually made a monsignor.

But he continued to abuse children, Garabedian said.

One accuser said Tully fondled him six times and once performed oral sex on him in the church rectory during a six-month period ending in 1984.

The boy, who was 14 and living in Massachusetts, was introduced to Tully by a Boston priest who drove the boy to New Jersey.

"It was a grooming process," Garabedian said. "Father Tully would promise to buy him gifts and would take him to dinner and on trips."

The fourth accuser was a Passaic boy who was a neighbor of Tully in the 1970s. Tully fondled the boy more than 50 times from 1971 to 1978, including once in his school office, Garabedian said.

The national Catholic bishops' conference approved a measure in 2002 that allows the church to remove priests after one instance of child abuse. Most North Jersey priests accused of abuse have been forced from active ministry but retain their priestly status.

Only James Hanley, who admitted molesting more than 20 boys, most of them in a Mendham parish, has been laicized.



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