Priest Charged in Child Porn Case
FBI Says It Found Photos in Associate Pastor's Quarters in Rectory

By Dennis O'Brien
Baltimore Sun
December 13, 2001

An associate pastor at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen was arrested at its rectory by FBI agents yesterday and charged with possessing child pornography.

The Rev. Thomas A. Rydzewski, 35, who lived at the rectory next to the church in the 5300 block of N. Charles St., was released to the custody of his parents last night by U.S. Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar after a brief hearing.

As a condition of his release, Rydzewski promised to remain at his parents' Arnold home and to stay away from unsupervised children. Bredar scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan 2.

Rydzewski, dressed in a pullover sweater and open-collared shirt, looked alert but shaken at the hearing and declined to comment as he left the courtroom with his lawyer, Max Lauten. Bredar repeatedly addressed him as "Father."

Rydzewski, who was ordained at the cathedral in 1998, was placed on administrative leave and offered counseling services yesterday by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, according to its spokesman, Ray Kempisty.

The archdiocese also suspended his "faculties to perform ministries," pending an investigation, which means that under church law he can no longer celebrate Mass, hear confessions or administer other sacraments, Kempisty said.

According to an affidavit filed with Bredar by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Norman, someone reported to the archdiocese that Rydzewski was buying child pornography on auctions conducted over the Internet, and church officials contacted authorities.

FBI agents arrived at both the rectory and Rydzewski's parents' home at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday and "secured" them, essentially posting agents at both buildings and controlling access out of a concern that "evidence may be destroyed," according to the affidavit.

After a search warrant was signed early yesterday, agents found printouts, a compact disc and photos of underage boys and girls engaged in sexual activity in both the Arnold home and in Rydzewski's quarters at the rectory, according to the affidavit.

Rydzewski acknowledged to Special Agent Mark Flores when confronted yesterday that he "has long had a curiosity" about child pornography and that "as a result of this curiosity" he sometimes connected to Internet newsgroups that promote child pornography, the affidavit said.

Kempisty said last night that as associate pastor of the cathedral, Rydzewski had daily contact with children in the parish and at the cathedral school. But he said that church officials are unaware of any instances in which he harmed any children.

The archdiocese announced the arrest yesterday on its Web site, at the cathedral's 5:30 p.m. Mass and to reporters.

"If anyone has information related to any possible misconduct by Father Rydzewski, they are asked notify the archdiocese," the Rev. Lawrence A. Waudby Jr., chancellor of the archdiocese, told about 20 people at the Mass.


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