Diocese: Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Albany, Diocese of Pittsburg, Diocese of Springfield
Religious Order: Franciscan (OFM)
Summary of Assignments:
- 1956: Ordained
- 1956-1959: Conventual Franciscan Seminary; Rome, Italy
- Doctoral Student
- 1959-1961: St. Anthony on Hudson; Rensselaer, NY
- 1961-1962: St. Hyacinth Seminary; Granby, MA
- 1962-1963: St. Francis of Assisi Friary; Pittsburgh, PA
- 1963-1968: Manhattan College; New York City, NY
- Theology Teacher
- In Residence
- 1968-1982: Convent House; New York City, NY
- Started Covenant House for homeless youth in two abandoned tenements in New York’s East Village in 1968
- 1982-1983: Mission of the Immaculate Virgin; New York City, NY
- 1983-1990: Covenant House; New York City, NY
- 1990-1992: Covenant House; Anchorage, AK
- October 8, 1999: Died
In 1968, with the permission of his superiors, Ritter began taking in homeless youths and letting them sleep on the floor of his apartment. In 1972, he founded Covenant House in Greenwich Village as a shelter for homeless youth. The shelter grew by 1990 to 16 cities.
In December 1989, a male sex worker publicly claimed that Ritter had used money from Covenant House to fund an 8 month affair with him. Shortly thereafter, three men came forward accusing Ritter of sexually abusing them as youths while they resided at Covenant House. Ritter denied the allegations.
In February 1990, Ritter resigned. An internal investigation by Covenant House revealed “extensive evidence” that Ritter had engaged with sexual misconduct with residents. One accuser filed suit, but the case was dismissed in 1991 due to the statute of limitations.
Ritter left his order and moved to a farmhouse in rural Ostego County, going by his given name, John. He visited St. Joseph’s Trappist Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts every month. He died on October 7, 1999.
Complaints against Ritter are documented in book, “Broken Covenant” by C. Sennott, 1992.
Sources: The New York Times 02.06.90; The Washington Post 02.10.90; People 02.26.90; Houston Chronicle 09.27.92; The Sun-Sentinel 02.28.93; Los Angeles Times 06.13.93; Newsweek 08.15.93; NY Times 10.13.99; New York Times 10.22.99; Youth Today 01.01.00; NY Times 01.12.03; Republican 03.10.04; http://bishop-accountability.org/; BA.org Assignment Record
Note: Years listed indicate editions of the Official Catholic Directory. Because of the publication schedule of the Directory, a priest listed at a parish in a given year was also likely at that parish for part of the previous year.