In Turmoil

By Tom Mashberg, Eric Convey and Robin Washington
Boston Herald
March 29, 2002

The priest accused of molesting Garry M. Garland confessed to the abuse in a face-to-face meeting with one of Garland's closest friends, yet has resisted for days making the admission public, three sources told the Herald yesterday.

The apparent reluctance of Msgr. Frederick J. Ryan to go public with his admission triggered the outburst that led to a distraught Garland's arrest outside Ryan's Chelsea home yesterday, Garland and other sources say.

Garland learned of the Ryan admission last Sunday from former Bruins hockey player Chris Nilan, who is a close friend of Garland and Ryan, said the three sources, who requested anonymity.

"Ryan has told people, 'What Garry says is true,' " said one source who has spoken with Nilan and Garland. "He has even written it down as a confession. Chris (Nilan) is pushing him (Ryan) to admit to it, but Ryan can't do it."

Nilan, 44, who grew up in West Roxbury, did not respond to repeated requests for interviews. A former pro hockey player who like Garland played hockey for Catholic Memorial High School, where Ryan was a chaplain, Nilan has been described by associates as one of Garland's closest friends.

Sources say Nilan visited Ryan, a vicar and former vice chancellor for the Archdiocese of Boston, to discuss Garland's allegations on Sunday. They say Nilan, who has long admired Ryan, did not want to believe Garland's claims, but does so now after a tearful Ryan admitted molesting not just Garland but another former Catholic Memorial student who has filed suit, David Carney of Hyde Park.

Sources say Ryan also made the admissions to a second man, who has not yet been identified.

Both Garland and Carney claim some of the abuse by Ryan occurred in the cardinal's chancery compound in Brighton. Garland has also accused the late Humberto Cardinal Medeiros of groping him on the same night in 1979 when, as a 14-year-old, he was allegedly orally raped by Ryan, and photographed naked, after the two had gone drinking together.

That allegation has led to an angry backlash against Garland, who told the Herald in interviews during the past week that he has received death threats and been called a liar and con man because of his statements, and has grown anxious by the day for Ryan to go public and thus take the onus off of him, Carney and a third man.

Ryan has been suspended as pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Kingston since last Thursday as a result of the allegations. His parishioners have held vigils to defend him, but Ryan has not responded to repeated requests for interviews.

He has been staying in the Chelsea home of his late mother, Mary, with a niece, Maureen U. Ryan, since last weekend. Sources say Garland knew of the address for several days, and had wanted to confront Ryan sooner, but was urged by friends and attorneys to give the priest time to come to terms with the ramifications of a public admission of sex abuse.

People familiar with the sequence of events yesterday said Garland grew increasingly disturbed as the day wore on and saw no hint of Ryan making a public admission. The advent of Easter added to the stress, sources say.

In a brief interview by cell phone with the Herald at 4:05, Garland, his voice breaking with emotion, said: "I'm nothing. I am going to take care of this. I'm going to get him to tell the truth." Amid urgings that he calm down and call his wife and children, he hung up.

Minutes later, Garland appeared outside Ryan's Revere Beach Parkway house, with a knife in his car and a note suggesting he might want to do harm to himself, only to come face to face with a throng of Chelsea public safety officials.

The police had been told to stake out the location by Garland's lawyer, Daniel J. Shea; his wife, Bridget; and an unidentified friend working for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau - all in a flurry of calls made after the highly agitated Garland went missing starting at 2 p.m. from his Hanover home, officials and sources said.

According to Chelsea Police Chief Frank J. Garvin, one of the callers said of Garland, "He was out of control and he may be on his way to harm Father Ryan."

Police had been waiting at Ryan's house for more than an hour before Garland arrived - a stakeout known to the Herald, which had a reporter and photographer on the scene seeking to interview Ryan. Unknown to officers, Ryan was home the whole time, but had refused to open the door for them.

Just as Chelsea firefighters were preparing to break into the two-family home so police could check on Ryan's safety, Garland pulled up in his silver BMW sedan.

After spotting the firefighters and some uniformed and plainclothes police officers, Garland rounded the corner. He stopped the car briefly at an intersection, sitting calmly. He then pulled his car away as officers approached and sounded their sirens. Garland sped briefly down the narrow street before stopping again.

With guns drawn, officers then pulled Garland from the sedan and wrestled him onto the ground.

The former semi-pro hockey player, wearing a T-shirt, blue jeans and a dark pullover, cried out he was not resisting arrest.

Asked if he had any weapons, he told an officer there was a knife in the car. An officer reached in and removed what looked to be a kitchen knife with about a 4-inch blade. Garland was handcuffed and taken in a cruiser to the Chelsea police station.

"He didn't put up much of a struggle," Garvin said. "There was something found in the car that led us to believe he may be a danger to himself. We're taking a serious look at whether or not he intended to harm himself."

Police later took Garland to Massachusetts General Hospital for psychiatric observation. They also planned to have an officer stand guard throughout the night.

"I don't think he ever posed a risk to Father Ryan," Garvin said. "He never brandished a weapon."

Depending on that evaluation, Garland would either be arraigned at MGH or Chelsea District Court, he said.

Garvin emphasized that the four misdemeanor charges against Garland "are very simple." They are: being a disorderly person; failure to stop for a police officer; driving to endanger; and speeding.

A Chelsea police captain spent about 20 minutes talking to Ryan inside the priest's house after the commotion of the arrest.

"He's fine. He's all right," Garvin said of the suspended priest.


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