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  Bishop O'Brien Target of New Suit
Ex-Altar Boy Alleges Cover-up of Abuse

By Joseph A. Reaves
Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
May 13, 2003

Bishop Thomas O'Brien was accused in a lawsuit filed Monday of conspiring to cover up sexual misconduct by priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The suit was filed by Mark Kennedy, a former altar boy at Holy Spirit church in Tempe, who said he was molested repeatedly more than two decades ago by the Rev. Patrick Colleary.

O'Brien was vicar general of the Phoenix diocese at the time and represented Bishop James Rausch when allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against priests. His spokeswoman did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

According to the suit, O'Brien and the pastor of Holy Spirit in 1979, Michael O'Grady, both "knew or should have known of Father Colleary's sexual propensities making him dangerous to minors before Father Colleary sexually molested Mark."

O'Grady is now rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix and a member of the Presbyteral Council, which is the equivalent of a diocesan senate composed of O'Brien's chief advisers. He also did not respond to a request for comment left on his telephone voice mail.

Kennedy repeats in the lawsuit a claim he and his family have made on a number of occasions: that they reported Colleary to O'Brien, who told them to keep their allegations quiet and promised to transfer the priest. According to the suit, that pattern continued in other cases after O'Brien became bishop in 1982.

"The way in which the defendants O'Brien and the Diocese of Phoenix dealt with their knowledge of Colleary's sexual improprieties and his victims followed the same pattern and practice that those defendants have followed in dealing with other priests accused of sexual impropriety and their victims," the suit said.

"The defendants were part of a conspiracy to keep sexual improprieties of priests a secret from the public and parishioners and to protect the church and priests at all costs."

The suit contends that O'Brien and the diocese were aware of other allegations of sexual misconduct against Colleary both before and after the priest was sent to a retreat for counseling in the 1990s.

"Despite that knowledge, those defendants continued to fail to notify the police, continued to fail to investigate Colleary's activities (and) continued to fail to do anything to protect other minors or vulnerable women from Colleary," the suit said.

Colleary was indicted Dec. 2 on three felony counts of molesting Kennedy, but charges were dropped Jan. 7 after the discovery of a long-lost police report meant the statute of limitations had expired. That report never has been made public. It remains sealed because of an ongoing grand jury investigation of the church.

In his lawsuit, Kennedy said he repressed the memory of his attacks until March 2002 when he saw O'Brien and O'Grady on television talking about the church. Arizona courts have recognized the rights of sex-abuse victims to bring suits in cases involving repressed memory.

Kennedy's attorneys, Lynne Cadigan and Kim Williamson of Tucson, said Kennedy was unavailable for comment.

 
 

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