MONSIGNOR DENIES ABUSE ALLEGATIONS (Defends himself in ‘open letter’ to friends)

The Suffolk County district attorney's office plans to empanel a special grand jury to investigate sexual abuse allegations against priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre and how the diocese handled those allegations. The grand jury would be empaneled for the sole purpose of hearing evidence related to the growing scandal on Long Island. The request is awaiting final approval by state court officials, which is considered pro forma. Msgr. Charles Bud Ribaudo, 63, the longtime and popular pastor of St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay, one of Long Island's wealthiest parishes, confirmed that he was stripped of his priestly powers March 27, 2002, after he submitted a letter of resignation March 12 because of allegations that he had inappropriately touched a student 20 years ago. The charges were made by the Rev. Michael Hands, who himself pleaded guilty last month to sodomy charges involving a teenage boy. Ribaudo said the allegations against him are false. He said he was flabbergasted by the charges. I categorically deny that there was any sexual relationship between us then, or in the 22 years I have known him since, he said. This was never anything more than a friendship. I can only presume he is trying to take advantage of our relationship.

Ribaudo defended himself by saying my heart is broken and my embarrassment is great.  In an e-mail dated March 5, 2003, that Ribaudo circulated to close friends, he denies that he had a sexual relationship with Hands or any other student at Trinity High School in Hicksville, where he was chaplain in the 1970s and 1980s.  He also is critical of the Diocese of Rockville Centre for turning over his confidential personnel file to the Suffolk grand jury, which later incorporated some of the information into it scathing report on abusive priests of the diocese.  Ribaudo's statement says, My permission was never sought.  Instead this information has been released to the Grand Jury and has been misquoted in sections of the report and printed out of context in the press.  In an open letter obtained by Newsday, Ribaudo said he is responding now because I can't handle all the personal calls and letters or the stress and confusion that my silence has caused among my friends and in the Oyster Bay community.

(New York)