In 1968 Father Bruce Ritter asked his superior, Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York, for permission to take in homeless teenagers, boys and girls, at his home in Manhattan. The charity, founded by Ritter, became an affiliate of the Catholic charity Covenant House.
Spellman was a close associate, client and friend of Roy Cohn, the McCarthy-era lawyer and future Donald Trump confidant. Spellman was also a close associate of Cohn’s law partner, Tom Bolan.
Spellman was alleged to have attended at least one of Cohn’s “blackmail parties,” and Spellman’s nephew, Ned Spellman, also worked for Cohn.
One figure that was instrumental to Covenant House funding was Robert Macauley. Macauley was President George H.W. Bush’s roommate at Yale and a longtime friend of the Bush family.
Macauley also brought on several “other wealthy or well-connected people” including former government officials and investment bankers when he joined Covenant House’s board in 1985.
Macauley’s organization, the AmeriCares Foundation, was one of the main sources of funding of Covenant House. It was later accused of funneling money to the Contras in Central America.
From 1985 to 1989, Covenant House’s operating budget grew from $27 million to $90 million. Its board came to include powerful individuals including top executives at IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank and Bear Stearns. It was during this time that Covenant House grew into an international organization. It opened several branches in sever countries, including Canada and Mexico.
It’s first branch in Central America was in Guatemala and was headed by a man named Roberto Alejos Arzu. Arzu was a CIA asset whose plantation was used to train troops used in the CIA’s failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba.
Arzu also worked for AmeriCares and was tied to several Central American paramilitary groups.
Intelligence community sources say that the Arzu-led branch of Covenant House procured children for a pedophile ring based in the states. Years later, Mi Casa, another U.S.-run charity in Guatemala that George H.W. Bush had personally toured with his wife Barbara in 1994, was accused of rampant pedophilia and child abuse.
Ritter, like Spellman and other priests who served under Spellman, was eventually accused of having sexual relationships with many of the underaged boys he had taken in, and of spending Covenant House funds on gifts and payments to the teenagers he exploited.
One of Ritter’s victims, Darryl Bassile, wrote an open letter to him a year after the priest’s preying on teenage boys was exposed: “You were wrong for inflicting your desires on a 14-year-old…I know that someday you will stand before the one who judges all of us and at that time there will be no more denial, just the truth.”
Interestingly, when Ritter’s activities at Covenant House were exposed in 1989 by the New York Post, Charles Sennott, the reporter who broke the story would say that “the secular powers more than the archdiocese or the Franciscans protected him [Ritter].”
Sennott’s report was attacked viciously by columnists in other media outlets, powerful politicians including then-Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, as well as by Cardinal Spellman’s successor, Cardinal John O’Connor.
Ritter was never charged for having sexual relationships with minors and was merely forced to resign from his post.