Diocese Policy Questions Raised in Woman's Claims of Sex Abuse
By Daniel Tepfer
November 24, 2002
BRIDGEPORT - The recent allegations by a former Trumbull woman that she was sexually abused by a priest in the 1970s have raised questions about Bishop William E. Lori's sexual abuse policy.
The woman said although she wrote directly to the bishop with her allegations, she was not given the chance to meet with him. Instead, she said, she was directed to give her account to the diocese's lawyer, General Counsel Michael Dolan. Lori has met with victims of sexual abuse in the past prior to suspending the accused priests.
The diocese's 11-member review board, which recommends action to be taken against accused priests, never heard directly either from the woman or the accused priest, Monsignor Martin Ryan. Instead, they are given the accounts from the diocese lawyer who contested previous allegations against priests in court.
In this case, Ryan was accused of molesting the woman when she was 15 or 16 in his office in the rectory of St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull. The woman says that during her conversation with Dolan he attempted to convince her the alleged abuse took place at a later date, when she was older.
The woman said she told Dolan she wanted Ryan suspended. However, she said when she realized that was not going to happen, her husband wrote Lori a letter stating Ryan should at least have to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Ryan, now pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Parish in New Fairfield, has denied the accusation.
Diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer said Friday the review board ruled that Ryan may have had "celibacy issues" and suggested he undergo therapy.
He said the review board process is based on a model which is accepted by all of the members.
McAleer explained that, in fact, the review board never gets to hear from either the victim or the priest and their names are not even disclosed to the board. He said this is done to maintain objectivity.
He said the diocese responded immediately on receiving the woman's complaint in April, and offered her a chance to meet with the bishop, which he said she declined. He said the woman told them the incident with Ryan occurred in 1978 when she was 17.
"We conducted an investigation and interviewed Msgr. Ryan and other people. We reported the allegation to the Department of Children and Families. We gave all of the information to our review board. We also honored the woman's sole request, made in writing, that Msgr. Ryan receive a psychological evaluation."
McAleer said the review board considered the case several times. Eventually, they recommended to Lori that Ryan remain in ministry.
"The board took into account the nature and severity of the allegations and Msgr. Ryan's record of 26 years as a priest. The board concluded that he did not pose a threat to young people. The board added that Msgr. Ryan, as a young priest in 1978, may have had celibacy issues. As a result, the board suggested that he would benefit from therapy, which he continues to receive."
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