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Joliet bishop reverses decision, removes accused priest from ministry again

Catholic World News - September 18, 2012

Just days after announcing that a priest would be allowed to return to active ministry despite accusations of sexual abuse, the Bishop of Joliet, Illinois, has reversed himself and removed the priest from ministry once again.

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, who had cleared Father F. Lee Ryan for “a very narrow priestly ministry,” said that he had “decided to revoke my earlier permission and once again place Fr. Ryan on full administrative leave.”

Father Ryan’s short-lived return to ministry had been the result of a decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which concluded that the priest had not committed a serious canonical crime that would justify removal from ministry. But after his partial return to pastoral work provoked a chorus of protests, Bishop Conlon reconsidered. Acknowledging that he was responding to public perceptions, the bishop argued that “any action needs to fulfill the larger need of the Church to confront the scandal of child abuse in its midst and diligently restore trust.”

Father Ryan is accused of conducting a relationship with a teenage boy during the 1970s. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith evidently found that the boy was above the canonical age of consent at the time (the American bishops have subsequently raised the canonical age of consent to 18). The priest’s accuser maintains that he was only 14 when the relationship began: a charge that the Vatican apparently did not find persuasive.

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  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Sep. 19, 2012 9:49 AM ET USA

    Bravo for Bishop Conlon! He is my former bishop, and I know how seriously he takes the sex abuse scandal. The church should have zero tolerance for priests who have been given a fair hearing and found guilty of any kind of sexual impropriety.

  • Posted by: unum - Sep. 19, 2012 7:52 AM ET USA

    Unfortunately, this is what passes for management in many Catholic dioceses. While I strongly believe in the guidance and wisdom that the Holy Spirit imparts to Church leadership, a little of the right kind of training and experience is helpful too. God helps those who help themselves!

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