Bishop Conlon Showcases Sexual Predator Bishop Ryan

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 21, 2019   

Bp. Ryan's pictures hang in foyer and sacristy of Joliet's cathedral

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JOLIET, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Faithful Catholics are outraged that Bp. R. Daniel Conlon is displaying two pictures of the late sexual predator Bp. Daniel Ryan in prominent locations at his cathedral in Joliet, Illinois and has a scrubbed version of Ryan's biography on Joliet's diocesan website.

The featured image above is of the disgraced former bishop of Springfield, Illinois as it's showcased in the foyer of St. Raymond Nonnatus, called the "Mother Church of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet." This is in spite of the fact that Ryan's immediate successor in Springfield, Bp. George Lucas, found him guilty of sexual misconduct and of conspiring to cover up that misconduct.

A report released by Lucas in August 2006 summed up the findings of his 18-month, Vatican-authorized investigation as follows: 

Between February 2005 and July 2006 an unprecedented inquiry revealed serious misconduct by a small number of priests in the Diocese of Springfield Illinois. Specifically, the probe revealed former Bishop Daniel Ryan engaged in improper sexual conduct and used his office to conceal his activities. The investigation found a culture of secrecy fostered under Bishop Ryan's leadership which discouraged faithful priests from coming forward with information about misconduct. 

Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF), the Catholic watchdog group instrumental in exposing Ryan's homosexual activity, commented on Lucas' 2006 report immediately after its release:
The sexual misconduct mentioned includes Bishop Daniel Ryan sodomizing teenage boys he picked up off the street. In some cases he would hear the boys' confession in order to ease their young consciences. This information was made available to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago in 1997 and to Bishop George Lucas in 1999.

Lucas' report adds that Ryan's actions "seriously eroded the trust of parishioners and the community at large."
 
The founder and president of RCF, Stephen Brady, told Church Militant that honoring Ryan this way is scandalous because "everyone in the diocese of Joliet knows how bad Bishop Ryan was."

Brady emphasized that there was no doubt about Ryan's homosexual past in both Joliet as a priest and in the neighboring diocese of Springfield as its bishop:

Bishop Ryan had sexually abused young men while in Joliet as a priest before being made bishop of Springfield. I know this for a fact. Bishop Ryan's sins have been very public; in fact, he would hear the confessions of the young teenage boys he had sex with after having sex with them. A Vatican-ordered investigation did take place. Then, Bishop Lucas of the Springfield diocese made a very public statement regarding the fact that Ryan was indeed a predator.

Ryan's homosexual sins were not confined merely to sodomizing young male adults or soliciting services from male prostitutes but also included the homosexual abuse of minors.

The diocese of Springfield, now headed by Bp. Thomas Paprocki, has posted on its diocesan website a current list "of all substantial cases of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy" of the Springfield diocese, which they note have been "disclosed in our recent voluntary review with the Illinois Attorney General's office." This list includes "Daniel Ryan" the former bishop of Springfield, who died in 2015.

"For his picture to be kept up as if its some kind of honor tells me very much about the current condition of Bishop [Conlon] and the diocese," said Brady. "Who in their right mind would put a picture of a predatory homosexual bishop where it can be viewed?"

Conlon also allows a larger portrait of Ryan to hang on the wall of the cathedral's sacristy where three men will vest this Saturday for their ordination to the priesthood.

Image
Bp. Daniel Ryan in cathedral's sacristy

A member of the Joliet diocese told Church Militant anonymously that having Ryan's picture hanging in the sacristy he "is showing future priests their role model of faith whom they should follow after ordination."

Even more puzzling is that Conlon was the chairperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People from 2011 to 2014. Yet he allows the children attending Sunday Mass at the cathedral to be invited into the sacristy where Ryan's picture hangs for the so-called "Children's Liturgy of the Word."

The cathedral's website explains this process as follows: 

During most Sundays during the school year the Cathedral of Saint Raymond offers Children's Liturgy of the Word during the 9:00 am Sunday Mass. 

Just prior to the first reading, all children ages four to eight are invited to come forward by the priest. They will be led to the Sacristy by a Children's Liturgy of the Word Minister who will help them discover rich treasures in the readings and the gospel. 

This is a wonderful way for young children to begin a lifetime of faith formation.

Church Militant reached out to a Catholic mother in the Joliet diocese, Jennifer Bramschreiber, who referenced the U.S. bishops' 2002 response to clerical sex abuse called the National Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Bramschreiber specifically focused on article 12 of the document which says dioceses are to "make clear to clergy and all members of the community the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons with regard to the contact with minors."

In her lengthy response to Church Militant, which can be read here, Bramschreiber recalled public information that states Ryan had "stepped down from public ministry in 2002 after accusations surfaced that he had sexually abused a 15-year-old boy in 1984." That case, incidentally, was never prosecuted, according to an Illinois state attorney, "because the statute of limitations had expired."

In her response to Church Militant, Bramschreiber asks parents of children attending the cathedral's Masses, "Why are all the faithful Catholic followers as well as the parishioners and families with children from the cathedral of St. Raymond allowing their children to attend youth ministries in the sacristy and have their child's picture taken in front of a predator — a pedophile?"

She brings up the fact that Conlon had previously downplayed Ryan's guilt simply because he wasn't convicted in a court of law. 

"Bishop Conlon had previously stated that these priests [including Ryan] do not pose a threat to children because they were not found guilty in the criminal courts and, therefore, not required to register on the National Sex Offender Registry," said Bramschreiber. "Why did these Catholic dioceses pay numerous financial settlement to their victims?"

For Bramschreiber, the bottom line is the message sent to kids that sex offenders are OK:

Allowing the portrait of Bishop Daniel Ryan to remain displayed in the sacristy where children frequently visit and are photographed, Bishop Daniel Conlon is sending a message and teaching the children that the priest who sexually abuses children are not sex offenders or pedophile[s] and pose no danger to children.

Ryan's case remains a sore spot for many bishops, who wish to bury the matter. Brady verified that at the U.S. bishops' general assembly in Baltimore last November, Lucas, now archbishop of Omaha, admitted that he was asked to keep the results of his investigation of Ryan under wraps.
 
Church Militant reached out to Bp. Conlon as to why he allows two of Ryan's pictures to be displayed at the cathedral and also allows his spotless biography to remain on the diocese's website. Alex Rechenmacher, the bishop's executive assistant and media spokesman, issued the following response:
At the diocese of Joliet, our first and foremost priority in this area is the development and implementation of practices which keep children safe, and provide resources and pastoral care for victims of abuse. Our website identifies all diocesan priests who have been credibly accused throughout our entire history. 

Meanwhile, we are in discussion with other dioceses, religious orders and lay advisors to figure out ways to appropriately and accurately identify and publish information regarding priests and bishops who belong to religious orders or who no longer belong to the diocese of Joliet (as was the case with Bishop Ryan). As those practices are developed, we certainly will amend publicly displayed information accordingly.

Contact information for Bp. Daniel Conlon:

Phone: (815) 221-6100

Email: officeofthebishop@dioceseofjoliet.org
 

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