TUCSON AZ (1/29/02)
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By Manuel D. Moreno, Bishop of Tucson, and Gerald F. Kicanas, Coadjutor
Bishop of Tucson
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This week, a settlement was announced in eleven civil suits that were filed against the Diocese concerning the sexual abuse of children.
It is our duty both in respect to the settlement and in fulfillment of our pastoral responsibilities to communicate this apology.
To those on whose behalf the suits were filed and to your families, we apologize and ask forgiveness. We acknowledge openly and with sorrow that there have been failings in the past by some within our Diocese and that you have suffered greatly. It is our hope and prayer that with this apology and acknowledgement you may begin to heal.
In our hope and prayer that you will begin to heal, we offer to you the opportunity to meet individually to hear the remorse that is in our hearts.
To any other person who may have suffered because of acts of abuse by priests or any employees of the Diocese, we again express our profound and deep sorrow and regret. To you, as well as to your families, we ask for forgiveness and pardon.
To the Catholic people of the Diocese of Tucson, we acknowledge that there have been failings in the past by some within our Diocese to respond appropriately to reports of abuse and failings to recognize the harm that child abuse can cause.
In addition to expressing our sorrow and regret, we pledge to you that child abuse in any of its forms is not tolerated within or by our Diocese and that our Diocese is committed to responding to and investigating appropriately all allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct made against anyone associated with the Diocese.
We pledge to you that the safety of children entrusted to the care of our parishes, schools, and all our operations remains a critically important priority. We pledge to you that we will fulfill our legal and pastoral responsibilities to respond immediately to any allegation of child abuse.
We ask you to join us now to pray for the healing of all those involved in the suits. We are considering further ways that we can lead you in prayer that both will communicate our sorrow and lead to reconciliation.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Manuel D. Moreno, D.D.
Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, D.D
By Alan Cooperman
A year ago, Donnie Frei and his parents finally confronted their former priest in court. They watched with deep satisfaction as Msgr. Robert C. Trupia was handcuffed and taken to jail to await trial on charges of sexually molesting Frei, now 39, and other former altar boys at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Yuma, Ariz., in the 1970s.
But the trial never took place.
Less than 24 hours after that initial court appearance, prosecutors reversed themselves and decided they could not bring a 25-year-old case under Arizona's statute of limitations. They dropped all the criminal charges, and Trupia returned to Silver Spring, Md., where he had lived for nearly a decade. Frustrated, the Frei family and other alleged victims pressed a civil lawsuit against the 53-year-old clergyman and the Catholic diocese of Tucson, which they accused of trying to cover up allegations of pedophilia against Trupia and three other priests. Yesterday, the diocese and the plaintiffs announced they had settled the suit for an undisclosed sum.
The settlement, which a person close to the case said was in the millions of dollars, is the latest of scores, and possibly hundreds, of payments made quietly by Catholic dioceses in the United States to end lawsuits alleging sexual abuse and negligence. A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk who has been an expert witness for the plaintiffs in 57 of these lawsuits, estimates that the church has paid out $ 1 billion.
Mark Chopko, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called that figure "unfounded and inflammatory" but said "nobody knows" the true amount. The jury awards and settlements that have been publicly disclosed probably total between $ 200 million and $ 300 million, he said. In a few cases, he added, the payments have temporarily bankrupted entire dioceses.
National attention has focused recently on the archdiocese of Boston, which has paid more than $ 10 million to settle only a portion of the lawsuits arising from pedophilia charges against the former Rev. John J. Geoghan.
But the Geoghan case is unusual in several respects. Geoghan has been convicted in one criminal trial and is scheduled to go on trial again, in mid-February, on charges of raping a 7-year-old. Cardinal Bernard Law, the most senior Catholic clergyman in the United States, has admitted that he transferred Geoghan from parish to parish after learning of the sexual abuse allegations. And the Boston Globe persuaded a judge to unseal thousands of pages of documents about the church's handling of Geoghan.
Far more typical is the situation in Tucson, where most of the documents in the lawsuit are sealed. No trial -- civil or criminal -- is now likely, and Bishop Manuel D. Moreno yesterday offered public and private apologies to victims but did not take personal responsibility for allowing the abuse.
"We acknowledge that there have been failings in the past by some within our diocese to respond appropriately to reports of abuse," he said in a joint statement with Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, who was appointed last year as his coadjutor, or designated successor.
While all the parties expressed some relief over yesterday's settlement, none was wholly satisfied.
The diocese is worried about its finances and is warning members that it may have to cut some programs. Trupia remains a priest and continues to draw a small salary from the church, although he has been suspended from clerical duties. His lawyer, Stephen A. Shechtel of Rockville, said Trupia maintains his innocence but does not want to talk about "this very painful matter."
And the plaintiffs do not have the full measure of vindication they sought. Trupia "is scot-free," said Norma Grace Frei, the plaintiff's mother, while his victims remain scarred. "It's such an embarrassing thing for the boys," she said. "It's a Catholic community. Nobody talks to us about it. They just kind of try to walk on the other side of the street."
Ordained in 1973, Trupia's first assignment was at St. Francis of Assisi church in Yuma. There, the plaintiffs alleged, he repeatedly molested 11- and 12-year-old altar boys in the rectory after Sunday services.
In 1976, a former police officer named Ted Oswald, then a lay brother at St. Francis and now a priest in California, became suspicious. According to court depositions, Oswald was helping some of the boys with a school project when one of them asked whether Trupia was "queer." Oswald, surprised, asked what prompted the question.
"That's when the floodgates opened and everybody started saying what [Trupia] was doing to them," one of the former altar boys, Timothy Badgley, 40, said in an interview yesterday.
Badgley, who is not among the plaintiffs, said Oswald asked the boys to write out statements, which he took to superiors in the diocese. Within days, Trupia was removed from Yuma. The boys' families were told that the priest was being treated for pedophilia.
According to the plaintiffs, however, there is no evidence that Trupia underwent treatment. Rather, he was transferred to Our Mother of Sorrows, a Tucson parish and school where he taught sex education and ran a "Come and See" program to show high school boys what it might be like to become a priest.
With regular access to young people, the plaintiffs alleged, Trupia preyed on so many young boys in Tucson from 1976 through the 1980s that other priests nicknamed him "Chicken Hawk." But according to depositions cited at preliminary hearings, at least two priests who raised questions about Trupia's behavior were told by superiors to mind their own business, and all reports of pedophilia -- including the handwritten statements from the Yuma altar boys -- disappeared from his personnel file.
Alleging that the diocese of Tucson had engaged in a "massive coverup," the plaintiffs' attorneys sought both actual and punitive damages on behalf of 10 victims and six of their parents in a total of 11 separate lawsuits.
In past cases, punitive awards have vastly increased the cost of such lawsuits to the church. In 1997, a Texas jury awarded $ 119.6 million to nine former altar boys sexually abused by a Dallas priest. Fearing that the diocese would declare bankruptcy, the plaintiffs settled for $ 23.4 million. Similarly, a California jury in 1998 awarded $ 30 million to two brothers who had been molested by a priest for most of their young lives; they later settled for $ 7.65 million.
Last year, a court order forced the diocese of Tucson to provide the plaintiffs with documents from its secret archives, including affidavits that Moreno sent to the Vatican in 1994 and 1995. The affidavits are now sealed. But in a deposition that is part of the public record, Moreno said he informed the Vatican that Trupia admitted to being a "loose cannon" who was unfit to serve as a priest and threatened to reveal that he, Trupia, had had a sexual relationship with the bishop of Phoenix. Moreno said he looked into the allegation and decided it was false.
Badgley, the former altar boy, said he did not participate in the lawsuit because "it happened so long ago, and I didn't really want to relive it." But he said he was glad the plaintiffs won a settlement, particularly after the abortive attempt to prosecute Trupia.
"Innocent? Hah," he said. "He can take that right to the
grave and deal with it later."
By William Lobdell
Nine former altar boys will receive an undisclosed sum and an apology from the Roman Catholic Church to settle accusations of priest sexual misconduct in an Arizona-based case that stretched as far west as Camarillo.
Attorneys for both sides announced the settlement in Tucson on Tuesday, resolving the latest in a string of priest molestation cases that have badly bruised the Catholic Church's reputation.
A 10th victim--a former juvenile delinquent who sought help from the church but was allegedly molested--will receive the same settlement.
The alleged sexual assaults, which began in 1967 and spanned two decades, involved four Arizona priests and in one case occurred at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. The seminary's graduates fill the priest rosters at many California churches and include Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, and Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown.
It was at the seminary that one Tucson priest--Msgr. Robert C. Trupia--hosted "Come and See" weekends at the college for teenagers contemplating the priesthood. Plaintiffs' attorneys contend numerous molestations by Trupia took place.
"Priests were bringing young boys in and using St. John's as a hotel," said Lynne Cadigan, a Tucson-based attorney.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was a defendant in one lawsuit, but "as far as I know, we didn't have to pay" any of the settlement, said Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese. Officials at St. John's couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.
The Diocese of Tucson issued a one-page apology, admitting "there have been failings in the past by some within our Diocese to respond appropriately to reports of abuse and failings to recognize the harm that child abuse can cause."
The bishop also issued a detailed special report to his parishioners on the settlement, conceding that the secret financial payout will have "very painful consequences to our Diocese and its finances, including the need to increase the indebtedness of the Diocese."
As part of the settlement, in which payment will also be made to six parents, Bishop Manuel D. Moreno will personally apologize to each of the victims, who are now in their 30s and 40s.
Of the four accused priests, Father William T. Byrne and Father Lucien Meunier de la Pierre have died. (Authorities said de la Pierre was convicted of child abuse charges in the 1970s and died while serving a prison sentence.) Trupia and Father Michael Teta have been suspended from priestly activities since the early 1990s and the diocese is trying to get them removed from the priesthood--something only the Vatican can order.
Court documents contain a letter from the parent of one victim, who writes about "an especially painful memory" her son had after visiting St. John's Seminary with Trupia. Her son spent two nights at the college and each morning awoke "to find Trupia sitting on [his] bed and smiling at him. The bedcovers were pulled down but [he] doesn't know or remember if Trupia touched him while he slept... He does know that the door to his room was locked... The door wasn't locked when he went to bed."
Police officers, responding to similar allegations, arrested Trupia on suspicion of child molestation in late 2000. But last year Yuma County authorities declined to prosecute, citing the statute of limitations.
Other high-profile priest molestation cases include one in Boston, where John Geoghan, who was defrocked as a priest in 1998, has been accused of molesting 130 youngsters in 84 lawsuits. A jury convicted him earlier this month of fondling a 10-year-old boy, and he faces two other criminal trials.
Last year the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses paid $5.2 million to settle sexual molestation allegations made against a high-profile priest. In 1997, a Dallas jury ordered the church to pay $119 million to 11 men who were allegedly molested as altar boys. An out-of-court settlement was later reached for $23 million.
The national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said that through the civil courts, victims of priest sexual abuse "now at least have a chance."
"I think the pattern is that the church doesn't learn," David Clohessy said.
"If the church didn't change after each million-dollar verdict or
settlement, it's hard to say what will make a fundamental change in the
By Nena Baker
For more than 20 years, the Tucson Roman Catholic Diocese covered up
information that priests were molesting altar boys and taking young men
to their beds, according to civil lawsuits filed by victims.
The diocese settled 11 lawsuits late in January after a Yuma County Superior Court judge ruled that the victims were entitled to seek punitive damages.
The allegations of the cover-up are contained in a motion filed by the plaintiffs that includes a summary of sealed records in the case. The summary cites details from dozens of depositions, personnel files and diocese records.
The confidential Tucson settlements, estimated in published reports to total at least $15 million, involved four priests alleged to have sexually abused children from 1966 to 1989 at parishes in Tucson and Yuma.
Diocese spokesman Fred Allison said that in many instances, victims' claims could not be verified because those in positions to know have died. However, diocese officials now acknowledge that incidents of molestation took place and have apologized.
Many of the court documents have been sealed at the request of the diocese. The Arizona Republic is seeking access to those records.
However, the records that are available include a complete deposition from the Most Rev. Manuel Moreno, bishop of the Tucson Diocese. That deposition describes how diocese officials failed to act on information in what amounts to a secret code of the collar.
The deposition and other records show that diocese officials protected one another, lied to a victim's family, failed to counsel victims, destroyed statements, did not notify child protective authorities and were uncooperative with police.
The cover-up began under the previous bishop of the Tucson Diocese but continued under the current bishop, Moreno, who was installed in 1982.
"It demonstrates absolute sleaze in terms of the covering up, the handling, the toleration, the non-investigation of very valid reports," said A.W. Richard Sipes, a psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk who was an expert witness for the plaintiffs and who has been involved in more than 50 similar cases.
Allison said church officials in the 1960s, '70s and '80s heard rumors about priests but never received a report of sexual abuse they found credible enough to refer to authorities.
New procedures have been in place for the past 10 years that require immediate notification of outside authorities and a complete internal investigation of allegations, Allison said.
The Tucson settlements are part of a national wave of sex-abuse cases involving Roman Catholic priests.
-- In Boston, where the archdiocese has paid about $10 million in partial settlements, church officials have given prosecutors the names of 80 priests accused of sexual abuse during the past 40 years.
-- In Los Angeles, the archdiocese settled a sex abuse case for $5.2 million last year and agreed to abide by a new set of "zero tolerance" policies to prevent new incidents.
-- In Dallas, the diocese settled sex-abuse claims for $23.4 million in 1998 after a civil jury awarded $119.6 million to the nine plaintiffs.
During the past two decades, experts say, hundreds of other claims have been settled quietly or before lawsuits were filed.
The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, for example, averted a potentially embarrassing trial in 1994, settling out of court with a Scottsdale couple whose son was molested by a priest, the Rev. George Bredemann. The Phoenix diocese settled another suit in 1991 involving sex abuse by Bredemann.
"The pattern and the practice is the same throughout the U.S.," said Sylvia Demarest, a lawyer for three Dallas plaintiffs. "Only in situations where dioceses have been caught have they changed their MO (mode of operation)."
The Tucson settlements include a pledge that the diocese will respond appropriately to allegations of sexual abuse.
Two of the priests identified in the cases, the Revs. Pedro Luke and William Byrne, have died. Two others, Monsignor Robert Trupia and the Rev. Michael Teta, have been suspended from duties but continue to receive monthly salaries and health insurance benefits paid by the diocese.
In a Mass celebrated a week ago at Our Mother of Sorrows, a Tucson parish where all four priests once served, Moreno apologized to parishioners.
"We are putting together broken pieces," he said. "We are making something new out of what was damaged by sin and neglect and ignorance and betrayed trust."
Moreno and the Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, who arrived from Chicago late last year and will eventually succeed Moreno as bishop of the diocese, have met with some victims and their families.
In an interview, Kicanas said it's important for church officials to respect and listen to people's feelings.
"Trust is restored when people are convinced that the church in no way condones abuse and will take on allegations directly and openly," he said.
Last week, the bishops met with parishioners at Our Mother of Sorrows, which sits in a 1950s-era neighborhood of ranch-style houses and packs a full house for Sunday Mass.
For two hours, in a meeting closed to the media, parishioners asked questions that reflected disappointment and concern. Allison, the diocese spokesman, said some who attended wanted to know "what the bishop knew and when he knew it."
Plaintiffs lawyers filed documents alleging the diocese didn't begin an official investigation of Trupia, the judicial vicar, until 1992, about 17 years after the diocese first heard that Trupia was abusing boys.
The plaintiffs claim that during those years, Trupia's behavior was so notorious he was known as a "chicken hawk" among other priests. Nevertheless, Trupia was promoted to increasingly powerful positions that gave him ready access to boys.
He tutored boys in his private room and took some on trips to visit seminaries.
In 1977, a lay brother who suspected that Trupia was molesting altar boys was rebuked by the chancellor of the diocese after the brother gathered statements from victims who claimed to have been molested by Trupia, documents show. The chancellor told the brother, a former police officer who is now a priest in California, the statements could get priests into trouble and indicated they may have been destroyed.
Trupia was suspended from duties in 1991, Allison said.
In a deposition given in August, Moreno testified that Trupia admitted to him in 1992 that he had sexually molested boys and "was a man unfit for public ministry." Moreno went on to say he could not explain why he had not been truthful about Trupia's statements in a letter he subsequently wrote to a victim's family and in a secret canonical affidavit to the Vatican.
Furthermore, he could not explain why he waited until 1995 to execute another canonical affidavit alleging that Trupia, during his meeting with the bishop in 1992, threatened to reveal personal sexual relationships with high church officials if he was not allowed to retire.
At the time of the 1992 meeting, Trupia was appealing his suspension to the Vatican. Moreno said in the deposition he did not immediately inform his superiors of Trupia's blackmail threat because he did not intend to give in to it.
"I'm not trying to cover up," Moreno stated in the deposition. "I am trying to help the diocese. According to you, your first insinuation is that I did not act properly, timely or caringly, and that's not true.
"I might have made mistakes as far as procedure or process, but they were not intentional in so far as to try to cover up or hide any ... or to certainly not in no way to promote anything that Monsignor Trupia was doing." In written corrections to his deposition, Moreno made substantive changes to sworn testimony, denying that Trupia had ever admitted to him that he had molested boys.
Trupia, of Silver Springs, Md., was arrested last year and taken to Yuma to face criminal charges that he sexually molested altar boys at St. Francis of Assisi Church in the 1970s.
Less than 24 hours after he appeared handcuffed in court, prosecutors decided they could not try the priest under Arizona's statute of limitations. His lawyer did not return a reporter's phone call last week.
Yuma Sgt. Jan Schmitt spent two years investigating the Trupia case after a victim reported in 1998 that he had recovered a repressed memory of molestation.
Schmitt said the diocese would not tell him where Trupia was.
Ten years earlier, the diocese would not cooperate with Tucson Detective Ben Jimenez, who wanted to interview Trupia after receiving a tip that the priest had molested boys.
"You've got to wonder what would have happened if (the diocese) had taken care of it back in 1988," Jimenez said.
The Rev. Raymond O'Brien, a priest and professor of law at Catholic University of America and Georgetown University Law Center, said high-profile cases and multimillion-dollar settlements are forcing the church to change the way it handles abuse allegations.
"No longer are you going to have these things hidden if it's economically disastrous for the church," O'Brien said.
"It's a good thing for those of us who love the church and wear a Roman Catholic collar. Painful in the short term, but wonderful in its ramifications."
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