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False Shepherd, Part I: The Figure Eight

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.”

Read the rest at Church Militant