Priest: Bishop Wanted Abuse Cases Hidden

Associated Press, carried in [Phoenix AZ]
September 16, 2003

PHOENIX - The former head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix once ordered a priest to come to him instead of going to police with reports of sexual abuse, according to information gathered by prosecutors.

The Maricopa County Attorney's office released 2,045 pages of documents Monday in the investigation of sexual abuse by priests in the Phoenix Diocese. The documents were sought by The Arizona Republic.

In May, Bishop Thomas O'Brien reached an immunity deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to change the way complaints were handled and admitted that some allegedly abusive priests were shuffled to different churches. He later resigned after being arrested in a deadly hit-and-run accident.

Among the documents released was a 95-page transcript of an interview with former priest Joseph C. Ladensack, who once supervised all Catholic schools in the diocese.

"You have to come to me first, I will handle these things," Ladensack said O'Brien told him when Ladensack reported abuse cases to the police. "He said, `You owe me obedience.'"

Ladensack, who left the priesthood in 1986, told investigators that O'Brien ordered him to persuade at least one family to withdraw a criminal complaint.

Diocese spokeswoman Mary Jo West said the church had not seen the documents and could not comment.

Ladensack said O'Brien exploded when he learned that Ladensack had called police to report on an abusive priest, the Rev. John Maurice Giandelone, who is now serving a 22-month prison sentence.

"He said, `Why did you go out there? Why did you call the police? You have to come to me with this immediately and to me first and only to me,'" Ladensack said.


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