Victims urge bishop to discipline accused predator priest
A retired Catholic cleric who has just been sued for sexually abusing a boy is verbally attacking his accuser.
We call on Sarasota Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Orlando Bishop John Noonan to publicly denounce this mean-spirited tactic.
Through his lawyer, Fr. Fred Ruse is calling his accuser a “fraudster.” An alleged wrongdoer is certainly entitled to defend himself, but he can do so without attacking his accuser. He can simply say “I deny the charges” without assaulting the intentions of your accuser. All that does is deter other victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers from coming forward, exposing molesters, and safeguarding children.
Catholic officials cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot claim they want survivors to come forward while tolerating such mean-spirited behavior toward victims by clergy under their authority. Even if the bishops think Fr. Ruse is innocent of abuse, they should still discipline the priest and tell all diocesan staffers that they too will be disciplined if they take steps that are likely to frighten and discourage victims from breaking their silence.
We cannot help but suspect that Fr. Ruse wants to scare off others who may know of or suspect him of wrongdoing. We would hope instead that this intimidation tactic backfires and that even more people step forward and shed light on these allegations.
Many children who are sexually violated cope with their pain and betrayal through anti-social and self-harming behavior like addictions and crime. That does not negate the truth of their abuse reports. In fact, such actions are often seen as likely indicators of childhood trauma.
The victim in this case says it well: “I went to prison for credit card fraud. That’s no secret. That’s public record. That has never been denied or covered up or hidden. That does not change the fact of what he did to me as a kid does not justify any of that.”
We applaud young Louis Reed for coming forward and helping to protect other children through his lawsuit. We also applaud him for using his name and speaking publicly about his suffering.
And we hope Florida Catholics will join us in pressuring these bishops. If they are sincere about wanting to end child sex abuse, they should be willling to publicly discipline one of their clerics for heaping even more pain on the already wounded.
A copy of the complaint can be found here. Among other places, Fr. Ruse worked in Daytona Beach, Winter Haven and Polk City.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)