The bizarre case of Rev. Ryan St. Anne Scott
Matt C. Abbott
August 18, 2004
During his tenure in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., then-Bishop Raymond Burke — currently the noted Archbishop of St. Louis — had a particularly interesting cross to bear, one might say. That cross was one Ryan Patrick Scott. Father Ryan Patrick Scott, that is.
Or, as he is currently known, Father Ryan St. Anne, O.S.B. You see, Scott is an independent Catholic priest. In Church-speak, he is schismatic, that is, not in communion with Rome. And whether he is/was validly ordained is, well.debatable.
(According to sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada, Scott "claims he was ordained a priest by an Old Catholic and then conditionally ordained by the retired Bishop of Peoria who.was then suffering from Alzheimer's disease.")
At the USCCB's November 2002 meeting, during the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal, Father St. Anne gave a presentation at a press conference held by 'The Linkup' organization for survivors of clergy abuse. The following are excerpts:
"On Saturday, October 26, 2002, I stood before Archbishop Timothy Dolan's listening panel for victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. As I did so, one of the thoughts that ran through my mind was: 'Why am I here, begging you for help?' I wondered if I had sunk so low as to finally seek help from those who abuse and cover-up. My answer was clear: No. I am here because I have hope!
"As you can see, I am a priest. My name is Father Ryan St. Anne. I am a Benedictine Monastic priest, but I am also a victim of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in an incident that occurred in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
"In 1996 when I brought this forward in a private meeting with diocesan officials [in La Crosse, Wisconsin], the information I provided was used against me in the form of public defamation, denouncement, libel and slander. Because I came forward, the bishop [Burke] had me jailed for 23 days under false charges, and while I was being held, that same bishop obtained a restraining order forbidding me to speak to him for three years..
"In 1998, my confessor, spiritual director, friend and colleague, Rev. Father Alfred J. Kunz, from Dane, Wisconsin, was brutally murdered in his church, just prior to substantiating not only my story, but the scandal itself that is rocking the Catholic Church today.
"In the early fall of 1976, as a young religious, I was brutally gang-raped in the rectory of St. John's Cathedral in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was lured there under false pretenses by a fellow priest and set up for humiliation and bodily harm.."
Does Fr. St. Anne's story hold water? Not according to the Diocese of La Crosse. In an e-mail to me, the diocese's Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Father Richard W. Gilles, stated:
"I am very aware of what 'Fr. Scott' has said about Bishop Burke. It is a complete falsehood and is slanderous of the good Bishop's reputation. In the Diocese we have learned one important lesson regarding all of this: have as little to do as possible with Scott. It is best not to engage him in any way, shape or form. All will be quickly distorted and used against you.
"Again, there is no proof whatsoever that Scott was ever validly ordained."
And then there's a story in a September 1999 edition of the La Crosse Tribune. Reporter Gayda Hollnagel wrote:
"Bishop Raymond Burke and two other Diocese of La Crosse officials have been named in a defamation suit filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court.
"The suit was filed by Ryan St. Anne Scott, who is identified in the suit as the senior religious official for the Holy Rosary Abbey Inc., Pocahontas, Iowa.
"Scott, who previously operated Holy Rosary Abbey in Vernon and Crawford counties, also uses the name, Father Ryan St. Anne Scott.
"Scott accuses Burke of defaming him by making public statements saying that Scott is not a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest, that he does not follow the precepts, dogma, sacred teaching and traditions, doctrines, practices and mandates of the Roman Catholic Church.
"Also named in the suit were the Rev. Michael Gorman, diocesan moderator of the curia, and Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, diocesan chancellor.
"James Birnbaum, lawyer for the La Crosse diocese, said the diocese has not yet been served with the lawsuit and that he has not talked with Burke about it. However, he said he received a copy of the claim from a news reporter.
"'There's nothing in there that I believe has legal or factual merit,' Birnbaum said.
"He said the diocese has had previous dealings with Scott and in October 1996 obtained a temporary restraining order against him after Scott threatened Burke.
"Birnbaum said Scott was never a priest of the diocese and had no connection with Burke or the diocese while he operated his Holy Rosary Abbey monastery.
"The diocese in 1996 published an official decree in the diocesan newspaper, the Times Review, disavowing any connection with Scott.
"According to Tribune files, Scott, a former finance officer for Edgerton, Wis., pleaded no contest to felony misconduct in office in Rock County on Feb. 3, 1994, was placed on three years probation. Scott, who lived in Avoca, Wis., at the time, was arrested two months after he quit his job. He was accused of taking a city check for $30 and cashing it for $300.
"Diocesan officials said in 1996 that they were notified of Scott's presence by Erwin G. Clouse, Metropolitan Archbishop of the American Catholic Church, also known as the Reformed Catholic Church of America.
"Scott was a former priest of the group but was excommunicated by its Council of Bishops, according to the information received by the diocese."
Also of note is Scott's reported association with the late Marvin Kucera, an alleged "mystic" who, according to an article on UnityPublishing.com, was "a con artist from the beginning."
In an e-mail, Scott told me the article on that site is a "99 percent fabrication" and that, "I was not Marvin Kucera's 'spiritual director' — I had only met him on one occasion in Wisconsin for about 15 minutes."
Perhaps the most intriguing unanswered questions have to do with the aforementioned still-unsolved murder of Fr. Alfred Kunz, Scott's alleged spiritual director. (According to Scott, Father Kunz was the one who determined that his ordination was indeed valid.)
In a telephone conversation several months ago, Scott told me he provided to the police all of the names of the priests who had allegedly assaulted him. He also claimed Father Kunz had confronted each of the priests involved in the alleged predatory ring and that none of them denied assaulting Scott.
Scott also gave me the name of an ex-priest whom he claimed had been involved in the ring many years back and who might be willing to talk about the ring's activities.
When I asked, via e-mail, Detective Kevin Hughes of the Dane County Sheriff's Office (who is well aware of Scott), which is investigating the Father Kunz murder, if that ex-priest's name rang a bell, the detective responded, "I cannot answer that."
Father Ryan St. Anne Scott currently resides in Powers Lake, North Dakota, where he has already made the news. In a story in the May 20, 2004 edition of the Minot Daily News, reporter Andrea Johnson wrote:
"A Williston judge approved a restraining order last month meant to keep the administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Prairies and two members of the Shrine's board of directors from coming into contact with one another.
"Abbot Ryan St. Anne, 51, and Roseanna P. Gebvelinger, who was listed as treasurer of the board in a church newsletter last year, sought the restraining order against board members Paul Dobrowski and Jerry Durick in Northwest District Court in Williams County on April 16.
"In his petition for the restraining order, St. Anne alleged that members of the board had made threats against him and threatened to destroy property and financial records at the Shrine. St. Anne also alleged that the Shrine of Qur Lady of the Prairies is the subject of a county, state and federal investigation into its finances prior to St. Anne's arrival at the Shrine more than a year ago..
."He is not recognized as a priest by the Bismarck Catholic Diocese and the church is not considered part of the diocese.
"St. Anne himself has a 1994 felony conviction for misconduct in public office. St. Anne said.those charges were related to certain information he divulged during a public meeting when he served as finance officer of Edgerton, Wis. St. Anne, who was then known as Ryan Patrick Scott, pleaded no contest to the charge.
"Felony forgery charges against him — related to an accusation that he took a city check for $30 and cashed it for $300 — were dropped by the judge.
"St. Anne said he feels none of those charge was not really justified.
"He said he was told by the mayor and city manager of Edgerton to divulge that information at the meeting. He also said he called for an audit of city finances in Edgerton and subsequently city board members there were also charged.
"St. Anne was sentenced to three years of probation by a Rock County, Wis., judge, which he served from 1994 to 1997."
Note as of 8/20/2004
Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2004 by Matt C. Abbott
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Alan Keyes, RenewAmerica, or its affiliates.