Handling of Sex Case Shows Church More Open, Leaders Say

By Sally Kestin
Tampa Tribune (Florida)
December 14, 1994

The decision Monday to place the principal of Jesuit High School on leave over allegations of sexual misconduct 30 years ago is indicative of an attempt by the Catholic Church to address the issue more openly, church leaders say.

"The church is definitely more aware of this problem than ever before," said Bill Ryan, spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. "It's trying to every extent possible to address it immediately and effectively."

Three men have come forward and accused Thomas Mulryan of sexual misconduct when he was a brother at the Notre Dame International School in Rome in the early 1960s.

Mulryan left the order in the 1970s, and came to Jesuit in 1988. He adamantly denies the allegations.

But the church has taken the accusers seriously. The religious order that operated the boarding school, the Congregation of Holy Cross, agreed to send out a letter to alumni of the school after the first two men came forward.

A third man who received the letter then made similar allegations against Mulryan.

Jesuit High leaders responded by placing Mulryan on paid leave and holding a news conference Monday afternoon.

"There was a time when people thought the way you treat (sex offenders) was send them away for awhile, get them treatment and ... after a while they were cured," said Joe Mannion, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, which includes Tampa. "Through some rather difficult experiences, they realized the best way to deal with it was to ... be open."

Mulryan, 62, is on paid leave while the school decides his future.

Jesuit will consider, among other things, whether other people come forward with new allegations. As of Tuesday afternoon, none had, said Father James Bradley, president of the school of 650 students.

Mulryan was at home Tuesday, "too hurt and embarrassed" to speak publicly, said his attorney, Terry Brocklehurst of Clearwater.

Mulryan "denies the allegations absolutely," Brocklehurst said.

While the ordeal has been devastating to Mulryan, his attorney said he understood the school's response.

"This is not a legal issue," Brocklehurst said. "This is a public relations issue."

Indeed, criminal charges against Mulryan are highly unlikely, said Dyanne Greer, an attorney with the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse.

"I don't think there's any way that the United States could have jurisdiction over that," Greer said. She added that Italian authorities probably would not pursue the case since it happened 30 years ago and involves U.S. citizens.

The state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) investigated Mulryan after being contacted by Larry Roeder, one of the victims who came forward this summer.

HRS found no victims from Jesuit and closed its investigation, said spokesman Tom Jones. He said the agency could reopen its case if new allegations are made.

Brocklehurst said Mulryan believes his accusers are acting out of malice.

"We feel certain that these people feel some kind of injury from the past," such as being "cut" from the school basketball team or punished by Mulryan, he said.

But Roeder, the only accuser to come forward publicly, denied the attorney's theory.

Roeder, now a crisis management specialist with the State Department in Washington, said he didn't know about the other two men until this summer.

Roeder said Mulryan tried to get him to perform a sex act in a dressing room at the school in 1961, when he was in the seventh grade. He tried to report the incident to the headmaster and his father, but neither believed him.

Through a friend this summer, he learned of another former classmate in the Washington area who said Mulryan abused him, Roeder said.

The two contacted the order, which in turn sent out a letter Sept. 30 to Notre Dame alumni. The letter said two former students had reported they were victims of unwanted sexual contactby a brother. There were about 20 brothers at the school when Mulryan was there, and the letter did not name Mulryan.

From the letter, a third man, who lives in Florida, came forward and made similar accusations against Mulryan.

"How does one explain us all saying the same story?" Roeder said.

"It's not just three guys getting together over a beer saying, "Hey, this guy was (a jerk) . Let's get him after 30 years.' "

Roeder said the men have no intention of suing Mulryan or the church.

"I'd be perfectly happy if nobody bothered him and he just got counseling," Roeder said. "I feel I've done my job by alerting people to a potential problem."

After leaving Notre Dame in 1963, Mulryan taught and served as assistant principal of a Catholic high school in Taunton, Mass., for 11 years. He then moved to another Catholic high school in Rochester, N.Y. Spokesmen for both schools said Tuesday they were not aware of any allegations of sexual abuse during his tenure there.

Mulryan sold insurance and real estate before coming to Jesuit as an English teacher in 1988. He became principal in 1992.

Jesuit students and parents were surprised at the allegations, and described Mulryan as a good educator. Staff writers William Yelverton and Michelle Bearden contributed to this report.


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