False Shepherd, Part I: The Fight Eight, by Joseph M. Hanneman

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By Joseph M. Hanneman, Church Militant, January 6, 2020

Bp. Daniel Ryan a study in corruption, deceit and cover-up 

Editor’s Note: This series of stories contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse of minors and adults that readers might find disturbing. This material is not intended for children. If you or someone you know was sexually abused, contact local law enforcement for help.

They called it the Figure Eight.

Homosexual men cruising for sex partners in Springfield, Ill., drove a regular route around the downtown Amtrak station. East on Washington Street to Fifth Street, south to Adams Street, west to Fourth, north on Fourth back through the station to Jefferson Street. It was an endless loop. One of the frequent travelers on this path of perdition was none other than the Most Rev. Daniel L. Ryan, then-bishop of the Catholic diocese of Springfield in Illinois. His trips were not about saving souls, however — indeed, they put his and many others in deep peril.

“He was one that would do the cruise. It was common knowledge,” said Frank Robert Bergen, a one-time runaway who worked the streets as a prostitute. “If you were gay or you were a prostitute or you were a drug addict down there at that time, you knew the bishop.”

It was in the Amtrak parking lot where Bergen first met Bp. Ryan in late 1983. A teenage Catholic school graduate, Bergen was living on the street after running away from home. He turned tricks to make quick cash. He was around 16 at the time of that first meeting. Ryan was 53. “Being in downtown Springfield alone and without … money, I found out prostitution was an answer,” Bergen said. “Around that time I was introduced to Bp. Ryan through other prostitutes in the downtown area as good money and a way to live. I was pretty, blond-haired, blue-eyed and he took a liking to me.”

Bergen approached Bp. Ryan as he sat parked in his maroon Toyota Corolla. “He asked me if I was a cop and I said, ‘no.’ And I asked him if he was looking for company and he said, ‘yeah.'” That first meeting ended with Bergen and Bp. Ryan having sex in a room at the Holiday Inn South. It was the first of countless similar paid meetings over the next dozen years. Bergen said he came to know the bishop as steady money: $50 for starters, upwards to $200 — with an occasional $300 the bishop’s limit. As he became a regular favorite of Bp. Ryan, Bergen was treated to meals at the Red Lobster on Dirksen Parkway and other restaurants. The bishop paid for groceries and bought clothing, but cash was Bergen’s favorite payment method. It helped him feed his appetite for cocaine, LSD and the occasional crystal meth. ….

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