The Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet will allow a priest to resume limited duties after the Vatican determined his alleged sexual relationship with a teenager in the 1970s didn’t meet the criteria of a crime under church law at that time.
The diocese said the Rev. F. Lee Ryan will minister to homebound parishioners of St. Edmund Catholic Church in Watseka, south of Kankakee, and St. Joseph Mission in Crescent City. Ryan was removed from the ministry in 2010 because of the allegations.
A 52-year-old Florida man had alleged that he was 14 when he and Ryan began the relationship.
Church officials said the man’s complaint was assessed by a local review board, then sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Catholic officials in Rome decided that because of church law in the 1970s, which stated that 14 was the age of consent, Ryan did not commit a serious crime by the church’s standards and could not be permanently removed from ministry, a spokesman for Bishop R. Daniel Conlon said.
The diocese did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press late Thursday seeking comment from Ryan.
The church didn’t identify the man, who told the Joliet Herald-Review and Chicago Tribune that he did not inform police or church officials at the time, but decided two years ago to tell his mother what had happened. A victims’ advocate who works for the diocese arranged for him to submit a complaint to the church.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized the diocese for allowing Ryan to return to some of his duties as a priest.
“This is a shocking and dangerous move by Bishop Conlon,” SNAP said, noting that the bishop leads the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on sexual abuse. “What part of ‘one strike and you’re out’ do Catholic officials not understand?”
Last month, Conlon told a national conference of church child welfare workers in Omaha, Neb., that the hierarchy’s credibility has been badly damaged by the clergy sex abuse scandal.
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