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Bishop Rhoades: Priest admits truth of child abuse allegation

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 8:50 am

The priest removed from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Hessen Cassel admitted to allegations of child abuse after being confronted, according to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Rhoades has named the Rev. William Kummer as the church's new administrator. Its previous administrator, the Rev. Cornelius Ryan, was removed June 10 because of the allegation of past sexual abuse of a minor.

Kummer, whose appointment is effective July 16, is no stranger to Fort Wayne,

previously serving at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 4500 Fairfield Ave. The diocesan website, www.diocesefwsb.org, lists him as the current pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Plymouth.

Rhoades made the announcement after he finished celebrating the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday at St. Joseph, according to a copy of his remarks made available by the diocese.

He also told parishioners he and the diocese will help them as the congregation moves forward and heals.

"I will continue to pray for you every day," he told parishioners. "I love you very much. I am asking Saint Joseph, your patron, to watch over you as he took loving care of Mary and Jesus. He watches over and protects the Church. I implore his intercession for you as well as the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his spouse. May Christ our Hope be with you with his infinite love and grace!"

Rhoades clarified a few details about the allegations against Ryan, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which is based in South Bend.

Ryan, who had served as administrator at St. Joseph since December 2011, was removed from that post June 10 by the Holy Cross order after it received an allegation he had sexually abused a minor while serving in Africa about 20 years ago.

In his remarks after Mass, Rhoades said the alleged abuse took place in Uganda.

"The (Holy Cross) Provincial Superior, Father Thomas O'Hara, as part of the investigation, confronted Father Ryan with the allegation he received," Rhoades said in his remarks. "Father O'Hara has informed me that 'Father Ryan immediately and freely admitted the allegations made.'

"This is the sad and painful truth," Rhoades told parishioners. "Father O'Hara wrote the following to me this past Thursday: 'Like many of your parishioners, we were saddened by the allegations and then were shocked by the admission they were true. No one wants to believe someone as beloved as Father Ryan is capable of committing sexual abuse, but we also must face what now is fact, and move toward comforting and reconciling with the victim of the abuse, who needs our pastoral support and prayers.'

"'Father Ryan is very remorseful and understands the actions taken by you and I are justified. He is in need of our prayers as well,'” O'Hara said in the letter.

In his homily during the Mass, Rhoades expressed his care and concern for the St. Joseph congregation, which had its pastor removed in December 2011 because of an allegation of sexual abuse while he served at a previous parish. That case currently is being reviewed by the Vatican in Rome.

"I have prayed for you every day, begging the Lord to give you comfort and fortitude in the midst of the distress of this painful situation," Rhoades told parishioners. "I have deeply desired to be with you at this time, to pray with you and to encourage your perseverance in faith.

"You are in my heart in a special way," he said, "for I know of no other parish in our diocese that has had to undergo such a difficult trial as you are undergoing."