Critics: Church Official Was Compromised
Diocese's Former Chancellor Allegedly Covered up Reports of Wayward Priests

By Ted Slowik
The Herald News
June 22, 2002

JOLIET — When parishioners and priests reported concerns about the behavior of the Rev. Lawrence M. Gibbs in the 1970s, the man responsible for investigating the complaints was the Catholic Diocese of Joliet's then-chancellor, the Rev. Daniel Ryan.

Allegations contained in court documents claim Ryan covered up reports of wayward priests accused of sexually abusing minors because Ryan himself engaged in homosexual relationships with young men. Ryan later became an auxiliary bishop of the Joliet Diocese and bishop of the Springfield Diocese.

"We've alleged all along this has been a pattern of cover-up by Ryan, and that Ryan was compromised," said Springfield attorney Fred Nessler.

Nessler represents a man who sued the Springfield Diocese in 1999, claiming he was sexually abused by a priest and that Ryan knew of the priest's behavior. Ryan stepped down as bishop when the suit was filed without admitting any wrongdoing.

"Bishop Ryan has adamantly denied those allegations," Kathie Sass, Springfield Diocese spokeswoman, said Friday. Ryan was not available for comment, she said.

Nessler's suit, which is pending in Sangamon County, contains sworn affidavits from three men who say they had consensual sex with Ryan. A fourth man recently stepped forward and said he, too, had sex with Ryan, Nessler said.

"We have never had a credible witness come forward. There may be something I don't know about," Sass said.

Although retired as bishop, Ryan is still in good standing. Last year he confirmed Catholic children at several Joliet parishes and was invited to say the commencement Mass at Lewis University in Romeoville.

"At the time the invitation was issued, there had been rumors of allegations, but nothing that would raise concerns," said Carol Wassberg, special assistant to Brother James Gaffney, Lewis president.

Roman Catholic Faithful, a conservative group based in Petersburg, circulated materials about Ryan at Lewis last year and publicly protested Ryan's participation in the ceremony to install the Rev. James Fitzgerald as auxiliary bishop of Joliet in March.

"It's no wonder Gibbs was protected. Ryan created an environment that was conducive to the abuse of children. He couldn't turn these guys in because he was so compromised himself," said Steve Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful.

Attempts to reach Joliet Diocese officials for comment Friday afternoon were unsuccessful. But during an interview earlier this week, Imesch blasted Roman Catholic Faithful and said the claims about Ryan were untrue.

"How can you believe anything they say?" Imesch asked.


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