Church Supports Priest Despite Allegations
By Daniel Tepfer
January 26, 2014
|Monsignor Martin Ryan says mass at Our Lady of Grace Church in Stratford, Conn. on Monday, Jan. 26, 2014. Photo: Unknown, B.K. Angeletti |
STRATFORD -- With resounding applause from his congregation, Monsignor Martin Ryan apologized Sunday for the recent Connecticut Post story detailing sexual assault and harassment allegations against him.
"I'm very upset with the article, and I'm sorry that you had to read it," Ryan began each Mass from the altar at Our Lady of Grace Church.
While Ryan neither admitted nor denied the allegations, he said he continues to seek counseling and "spiritual direction" and has the support of the bishop. Ryan was appointed pastor of the 60-year-old church on Second Hill Lane on Jan. 18.
"There is no question I will continue as pastor of the parish," Ryan added to applause.
Parishioners who were questioned as they left the church overwhelmingly said they support Ryan as their pastor.
"He is human, and we all make mistakes," said Brian Parzyck, 18, who was attending church with his family in solidarity with Ryan.
"It was all in the past," said his father, Ron Parzyck. "We waited two years for a pastor, and we finally got one and we are all behind him."
Other parishioners, who declined to give their names, said Ryan has brought people back to the church since he was first appointed as administrator two years ago. Both the 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Masses were well attended Sunday.
"I am very pleased with his ministry," Marie Radcliff said.
Ryan, who had been pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Church in New Fairfield since 1992, was removed from that church in June 2011 by diocese officials after acknowledging he sent "inappropriate" emails to a female parish employee.
In 2003, the diocese agreed to settle a lawsuit claiming that Ryan had molested a teenage girl in the early 1970s at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull. Ryan denied the allegations and then-Bishop William Lori refused to relieve Ryan of his duties because he did not believe Ryan was a threat to children.
On Thursday, Bishop Frank Caggiano met with church leaders and apologized for not discussing the past allegations against Ryan with them before appointing Ryan pastor.
In his remarks at Mass, Ryan only briefly mentioned the allegations against him, referring to one as "something relating back to the 1970s," and the other as, "I was accused by one of my employees of harassing her with emails."
Ryan said following the later allegations, he had a number of discussions with Lori before he was removed as pastor of the New Fairfield church. Ryan said at the time he was dealing with the deaths of both his mother and sister.
In an interview in June 2011 with the Connecticut Post, the 49-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld, claimed she first told diocese officials in March 2011 that Ryan was acting inappropriately toward her.
The woman, who had resigned from her job with the church, said Ryan touched her inappropriately on a number of occasions in the church office and also sent her inappropriate emails. She said she twice asked him to keep their relationship at an appropriate business level.
"I had just gone through a divorce, and I guess I was an easy target for him," she said.
In the lawsuit that was settled, the woman said she was in the St. Theresa's rectory when Ryan requested a meeting with her. "He said he had to show me something in his office,'' she stated in court papers.
According to court documents, when she entered his office, the woman claimed Ryan grabbed her and began French-kissing her. She also said he fondled her breasts through her clothes.
When she tried to pull away, the woman said Ryan responded: "Isn't this something you always wanted?"
"I said, 'No,' and I was fighting to get away and he said, 'This is all your fault, so you better not tell anyone.' "
The woman said she broke free and ran away, finally stopping to sit beneath some trees where she began sobbing uncontrollably. She said she told a girlfriend, who then told her the same thing had happened to her.
The woman said diocese lawyer Michael Dolan later told her he had located her friend, who, along with her sister, claimed Ryan abused them.
She said diocesan officials told her Ryan was having "issues with celibacy," court documents state.