Abuse Victim Won't Give up Fighting Providence Diocese

By Karen Lee Ziner
Providence Journal-Bulletin
September 18, 2003

Providence - Mary Ryan drew in a breath, and her voice shook. "Ten years I've been in litigation," said the Burrillville woman as she stood outside the courthouse. Ten years of fighting the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, which Ryan described as "full of criminals."

Ryan, joined yesterday at a news conference by other survivors of clergy abuse, said she will keep fighting, even though a judge last month dismissed her civil lawsuit against leaders of the Providence diocese.

"I will be appealing this," said Ryan in a park opposite Providence Superior Court. Ryan said she intends to file an appeal with the Rhode Island Supreme Court this week.

Ryan and others from Survivor Connections Inc., of Cranston, and Survivors First, of Boston, demanded that the Providence diocese, and other dioceses, release records on accused clergy members.

"We're demanding that the Providence diocese open up all their secret archives," said Frank Fitzpatrick, who was among a group that accepted a settlement agreement with the Fall River Diocese against the Rev. James Porter.

Phyllis Hutnak, an alleged victim of the late Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn, said the Providence diocese "owes the people of Rhode Island a full accounting of all information regarding accused priests. We have a right to know where any and all perpetrators are today."

In her statement, released after the news conference, Hutnak said, "Full disclosure is the only way to meaningfully apologize to the people of Rhode Island and all victims of clergy abuse. Until then, the danger to our children still exists."

Attempts to reach a lawyer for the diocese and a diocesan spokesperson were unsuccessful last night.

In August, Judge Robert Krause wrote in a 14-page decision that Ryan filed the 1995 lawsuit more than 10 years past the statute of limitations.

Ryan, who represented herself, argued that her case met several exceptions that would exempt her from the statute-of-limitations law.

Ryan was the only one of 38 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rhode Island who did not join a $14.5-million settlement with the diocese a year ago.

She rejected a $400,000 settlement in March, saying that she preferred to push for the diocese to release whatever records it has on accused clergy members.

Those clergy include the late Monsignor Dunn, who was convicted in 1999 of first-degree sexual assault against Ryan, from when she was 17 until she was 21. Dunn received a 10-year suspended sentence; he died in 2001.

"One of the stipulations was that the church didn't have to admit any culpability" in the civil class action suit, said Ryan. "It made me sick." For that reason, she said, "when the settlement happened, I just couldn't do it."

Said Ryan, "I need the documents to prove my case." She alleges that diocesan officials knew that Dunn had molested others, and they shuttled him from parish to parish to keep the situation under wraps.

"They knew about it and fraudulently represented that he was a good man, when they knew he was a criminal," said Ryan.

Paul Baier, president of Survivors First, said, "What we believe will come out in Mary's case, is what came out in Boston - a systematic cover-up.

"We need to remember that we're talking about grown men who committed felonies - grown men who raped kids," said Baier.

"The moral authority has been lost here. One way to restore it," said Baier, "is to open up the closets and show the Catholic mothers that there's nothing more to hide."


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