The highest-ranking cleric in the Archdiocese of Boston to be accused of child abuse engaged in a sexual relationship with a teenage boy in the 1980s that continued until three years ago, according to a deposition released Monday.
As reported in the Boston Sunday Herald, former Boston Bruins defenseman Chris Nilan testified under oath in July that Monsignor Frederick J. Ryan admitted molesting three teenagers: former Catholic Memorial High School hockey players Garry M. Garland and David E. Carney, and a third youth whose name has been withheld.
Ryan, a former vice chancellor under Humberto Cardinal Medeiros in the early 1980s, was pastor of St. Joseph’s in Kingston and head of the Plymouth Vicariate, overseeing 16 southern parishes, at the time of his suspension in April.
In the deposition transcript released Monday, Nilan, a friend of both the priest and his three alleged victims, said he learned of the long-term abuse of the third man, listed simply as John Doe, when he confronted Ryan in the spring, demanding to know if his friends’ accusations were true.
“He told me that he had continued a relationship with this kid up until about three years ago, a sexual relationship, which kind of floored me,” Nilan said, adding, “Not kind of, it floored me.”
Asked about Doe’s condition by Daniel J. Shea, the attorney who formerly represented Carney and Garland in their suit against Ryan and the church, Nilan said: “I believe he’s a heroin addict and he’s a mess. If he doesn’t get any help, he’s going to die pretty soon.”
That suit is now in the hands of lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. Neither Ryan, who is living in Chelsea, nor his attorney, Timothy P. O’Neill of Hanify & King, returned phone calls seeking comment.
But multiple sources told the Herald that Doe told Carney and Nilan of his long-term relationship with Ryan, assertions supported by Carney in his own deposition, which has not yet been filed.
Speaking at a news conference in Garabedian’s office on Monday, Carney, 35, said he was “shocked” that Ryan confessed to Nilan but “happy that he gave himself up.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him,” Carney said, adding he was “very grateful” to Nilan for obtaining the apparent confession and testifying about it in the sworn deposition.
That testimony includes Nilan’s account of Ryan’s admission of seducing Carney with alcohol, taking him to Rhode Island to be tattooed with the image of a baby devil in a diaper, and masturbating Carney inside a Hyannis hotel room. The events allegedly occurred in 1982.
In the Hyannis incident, Nilan said, Carney told him he reacted to the abuse by urinating on the priest and dumping a bag of potato chips on him. Ryan also admitted using pictures of Nilan, a former Catholic Memorial hockey star and by then a professional hockey player, as a seduction tool in his encounters with Carney, the former Bruin said.
“That disgusted me,” Nilan said. “It disgusted me what Garry told me and it disgusted me what David Carney told me; having become a good friend of Fred Ryan and respecting the man. So I wanted to get some answers for myself from a man I had done confession with.”
“I believe Garry Garland and I believe David Carney and I also believe the other kid . . . that they were abused sexually and were made to take nude photographs by Fred Ryan,” Nilan testified.
Nilan said he was especially shocked by the revelation because Ryan officiated at both his wedding and Garland’s, and was a trusted force in both their lives.
“I believe what he did was sick,” Nilan said. “Perverted and really the utmost deceivable act you can do with young kids who are looking for help or direction from someone like that. To betray them and abuse them like he did, yeah, I think there should be serious consequences for what he did.”
Garabedian said he has served Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N. Y., with papers informing the bishop that Garabedian plans to seek court approval to make the bishop a defendant in the case. The civil suit already names the Archdiocese of Boston and Ryan.
Garabedian said he would pursue the Ryan matter aggressively because Ryan “was one of the top four or five people in the archdiocese back then, and knows a lot about what went on.”