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Roman Catholic Faithful
Accuses Bishop Ryan
of Sexual Harassment

By Thomas A. Droleskey
From the February 20, 1997 issue of The Wanderer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —At a press conference held on Feb. 11th at the Springfield (Ill.) Hilton, Stephen G. Brady, the president and founder of Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., publicly accused the Most Rev. Daniel L. Ryan, the bishop of Springfield in Illinois, of the "physical sexual harassment of priests."

At the conference, attended by several members of the local media, broadcast and print, and by the communications director of the Diocese of Springfield, Kathleen A. Sass, Brady gave a brief history of the origins of Roman Catholic Faithful. He explained that he started his organization to combat the heterodoxy and liturgical irreverence rife within the Springfield Diocese. Incorporated on May 15th, 1996, Roman Catholic Faithful has members in all 50 states and in several foreign countries. There are chapters throughout the United States.

Brady indicated that he started the organization because of problems he was experiencing in his own community, Petersburg, Ill., where a member of the local parish council was teaching his son in a public school how to use a condom. Another person, an extraordinary minister who taught at the same school, publicly endorsed the agenda of Planned parenthood. Efforts to reach Bishop Ryan on these matters proved fruitless. No action was taken against the individuals who defied Church teaching in their careers as public school teachers.

The growth of Roman Catholic Faithful prompted several priests to contact Brady about problems they had been having with Bishop Ryan. Two priests, whose identities have not been revealed publicly, gave Brady detailed information concerning alleged incidents of having been sexually harassed by the bishop. One of the priests, who gave an exclusive, detailed telephone interview to The Wanderer shortly after the press conference, provided this reporter with extensive corroboration of the charges Brady has made against Bishop Ryan. The Wanderer has no immediate plans to publish this interview.

After having gathered statements from these priests, Brady wrote Ryan a letter. Dated Nov. 8th, 1996, it stated in part:

"While working with these Illinois priests we have come to learn that some of them have suffered abuse and persecution. One form of this abuse has been the sexual harassment of these priests. In other cases, we have learned that you have had consensual sex with priests. This is a scandal of the highest order and an affront to God." Brady then demanded the bishop's resignation by Nov. 13th, 1996. Failing that, Brady wrote, he would have to make the allegations public knowledge. An attorney for the bishop wrote to attorney James Bendell, who serves on the Board of Directors of Roman Catholic Faithful, that Brady would be subjecting himself to a lawsuit if he made the allegations —which Ryan vehemently and categorically denies —public.

Brady, however, did not go public with his accusations. He sought the counsel of many individuals, including leading canonists and a bishop. At the urging of one priest, the documentation of these allegations was provided to the papal nuncio, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, in November, 1996. A meeting about these allegations was held at the Nunciature on Nov. 15th, 1996. Unbeknownst to anyone, however, Cacciavillan had provided all the documentation that had been given to him concerning these allegations to Bishop Ryan, including a detailed four-page statement by one of the priests (who had been promised strict confidentiality in the matter). Ryan thus had all of the evidence against him, including the names of his accusers. Cacciavillan never once contacted either of the two priests involved in this case at this juncture.

Brady went on to state at the press conference that Cacciavillan now considers the case "closed," even though no investigation had been conducted. He said that this was a terrible betrayal of the trust that the priests had placed in the papal nuncio, as well as a breach of all propriety in the conduct of investigations of this nature. A woman who answered the phone at the Nunciature in Washington told this reporter on Feb. 11th that the archbishop had "no comment" on the entire story. When told that the nuncio would be criticized for his betrayal of the priests, an action which helped to precipitate the public revelation of these accusations, the woman said that she would relay that message to him.

Brady also said that the press conference held on Feb. 11th had been scheduled originally for Jan. 22nd. After consultation with a number of individuals, however, he decided to postpone it in order to allow individuals at the Sacred Congregation for Bishops to review material sent to them on Jan. 13th, 1997. Given the actions of the papal nuncio, though, Brady believed that he had no choice but to go public with these allegations, if for no other reason than to let Bishop Ryan know that he is going to be held accountable for them even if the nuncio has decided that the case is closed.

Quoting from St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, Brady sought to justify what might be considered a breach of respect for the office of the bishop:

"It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.

"Article 2: Fraternal correction is a matter of obligation (precept) out of charity for the sinner. And if the order of fraternal correction has been observed (beginning with private admonitions until there is no other recourse for the sake of the faith than to publicly proclaim the prelate), to do so for the sake of the faith can be meritorious."

Recalling the fact that a priest once pulled him out of a line to receive Communion over 20 years ago at a time when he was not living as he knew he ought, Brady said that the priest acted out of true love for his immortal soul. It is that kind of love, Brady said, that he has for Bishop Ryan. He wants the bishop to own up to his actions, as well as to see to it that the priests who fear for their priestly careers and personal safety are protected. He said that he had seen his wife through cancer after she had delivered their second child, and that he discovered just last year that his 11-year-old daughter had had a stroke at some point in her life that had gone undetected for several years. Yet nothing, he said, compares in difficulty with what he believed he was forced to do by holding the press conference. "This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my entire life."

Brady spent a good deal of time outlining the problems extant in the Diocese of Springfield. He noted that a prominent priest in the diocese had written an article in The Catholic Times, the diocesan newspaper, which dissented from the clear teaching of Christ forbidding the admission of women to Holy Orders. Nothing was said or done to contradict the article. Furthermore, Brady explained to the secular press in attendance that Catholics have the obligation to use the faith as the basis of how they act outside of Sunday Mass, that a practicing Catholic cannot be engaged in activity which is directly opposed to unchanging moral truths. He said that the allegations made against Bishop Ryan come in the context of a long history of support within the diocese for theological "opinions" which are at variance with what is taught by the Church's Magisterium.

Furthermore, a priest has no authority to function without the direct permission of a bishop (or of a religious superior). A priest without faculties from his bishop cannot say Mass publicly —and he cannot hear Confessions except in emergency situations. The priests making the allegations against Bishop Ryan fear that they will be punished for: a) not responding to the bishop's alleged romantic advances; and b) for bringing these allegations out into the open. Brady expressed the belief that the full facts of the case may not be known publicly unless action is brought in civil court at which time the bishop and his accusers each would be deposed in the discovery process. Brady said that he is not certain whether the priests will bring an action of their own at this point; however, he said that all avenues, including that of using the Signatura in Rome, remain open to exploration.

(Canonists sought out by The Wanderer for comment on this matter indicated to us that it was a mistake to provide any information to Archbishop Cacciavillan, who has a reputation for siding with the bishops in matters of this sort without conducting any examination whatsoever of the facts involved. We were reminded that it was Cacciavillan who told the [now] former archbishop of Honolulu that he had been justified in excommunicating a group of laymen several years ago, even though the excommunication had been reversed by the Signatura. The canonists we consulted said that the priests in this case should have gone straight to the Signatura, as well as perhaps providing information to both the Sacred Congregation for Bishops and the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy. "Don't deal with the nuncio," we were told. "He is a company man all the way.")

Reporters from the secular media expressed a wariness of the allegations, especially since none of the priests involved were present at the press conference or had provided notarized statements for Brady to distribute. These reporters indicated that the case, as it stands now, is essentially one of Brady's word versus that of the bishop. And since Brady is known to be an irritant in the Diocese of Springfield, the allegations are rendered slightly less credible, the reporters suggested, because he was the individual making them public. But Brady held his ground, stating that he believed that he had to start this process, especially in light of the nuncio's betrayal of the priests. He said that he is a simple family man whose pizza business has suffered a 30% decline since he became visible in his battles against Bishop Ryan. Going public with this information, he said, was a matter of conscience for him.

Brady went on to state that he was going public to give support to those priests in the diocese (and elsewhere) who have been sent away for psychiatric treatment solely because of their doctrinal orthodoxy. He specifically mentioned a place in St. Louis where priests of the Springfield Diocese have been sent for reprogramming. One reason for sending priests to such a place, Brady reported, is to stigmatize them for the rest of their priesthood, making whatever they say less credible in the eyes of others. After all, Fr. "So-and-So" has a "disorder." "He has been sent away. You can't believe him."

"Just because the nuncio has closed the case, that does not mean that it is closed. There is a process for the laity and the religious to pursue a case on different grounds. That's what we're going to start working on now," Brady said in response to a question about where he will proceed. However, the possibility of civil action is something that he and his board are considering, in consultation with legal advisers. Brady did say that one of the two priests had agreed to be interviewed by this reporter, and that the interview would be made available to other reporters subject to the parameters established by the publisher-editor of The Wanderer, A.J. Matt, Jr. (This prompted Kathleen Sass, the diocesan communications director, to ask Brady if this reporter is a member of Roman Catholic Faithful. Brady replied that he is not.)

Sass said that her reaction to the press conference was that "this is very sad. Very sad and very distressing that relations between Mr. Brady and his bishop have deteriorated to this point. I am aware that Mr. Brady has had disagreements with the diocese and with Bishop Ryan but it is saddening that it has deteriorated to this point. Bishop Ryan has received the letter, of course. The allegations are totally untrue." She said that the diocese would welcome a full investigation into these charges, saying that "Bishop Ryan has been very open in sharing all the information he has received from Mr. Brady on this matter with the Congregation for Bishops, with the Vatican nuncio, and with the administrator of the Chicago Archdiocese."

Attorney and RCF board member James Bendell wrote a letter to Archbishop Cacciavillan on the same day as the press conference, Feb. 11th. Noting that he was "disappointed (but not surprised) to hear you have decided to 'close the file' on the matter concerning the misconduct of Bishop Ryan," Bendell went on to remark that Cacciavillan had not even had the courtesy to acknowledge an earlier letter that he had sent to the Nunciature. As a result of the nuncio's action in this case, Bendell wrote that:

"1) Your file on Bishop Ryan may be closed, but ours is open.

"2) For years, faithful Catholics throughout this country have patiently submitted information to your office concerning serious deviations from Catholic teaching and practice permitted and in some cases encouraged by some of the bishops in this country. Your office has done little or nothing in response. Meanwhile, the state of Catholicism continues to deteriorate in this nation.

"3) We are no longer going to wait for you to act. We lay people are the ones that have to watch our children fed error in many Catholic schools and proceed on to colleges and universities that falsely claim the name of 'Catholic' We lay people are the parents whose sons are molested by pedophiles in an atmosphere often tolerant of homosexually active priests. We lay people are the ones who drop the money in the collection plate that is used to pay for speakers and programs that deny the fundamental truths of our faith. . . . We will make sure our efforts are consistent with Canon Law. . . . The orthodox laity of this country will no longer sit back and watch the foundations of our faith eroded. We hope you will join us in this effort."

No response from the Nunciature has been forthcoming.

Civil and canonical actions are being considered by Roman Catholic Faithful at this juncture.


(The address for Roman Catholic Faithful is P.O. Box 109, Petersburg, IL 62675; the phone number is 217-632-5920. The Internet address is http://www.rcf.org) [UPDATED]


*Published by The Wanderer Press, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107.
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