Removal of Former Yuma Priest Part of Healing

By James Gilbert
Yuma Sun [Yuma AZ]
August 8, 2004

Monsignor Richard O'Keeffe said the removal of a former Yuma priest from the Tucson diocese over sexual abuse allegations may bring a sense of closure to the victims and the parish community that has been affected.

"Healing is an ongoing process and we pray for the continued healing of those who have been harmed and for their families," said O'Keeffe, the spiritual leader of the Immaculate Conception Church for the past 23 years. "The holy father's decision is a fulfillment of the commitment that there is no room in the priesthood for those who would harm children."

Church officials in Tucson on Thursday announced that Robert Trupia, formerly a monsignor and associate pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Yuma from June 1973 until March 1976, had been stripped of his priesthood.

Trupia, 56, who was suspended in 1992, had been named named in three separate lawsuits alleging that he molested teen-age boys during the 1970s. One of the cases was settled out of court in 2002.

David Donald Frei of Yuma filed a suit in Yuma County Superior Court in December of 1997. He alleged that Trupia molested him on several occasions while he was a student at St. Francis School from 1973 to 1974.

In a similar suit filed in Pima County, Todd Michael Diaz alleged that Trupia molested him and held him against his will in the church rectory in the summer of 1975.

The parents of a former altar boy at Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Tucson also filed a suit against Trupia after their son confided that the former priest had sexually assaulted him between 1976 and 1979.

After leaving Yuma, Trupia worked in the diocese Tribunal Office until 1989. He was later placed on nonactive status in 1990.

Being defrocked means that Trupia can longer perform church ceremonies, wear clerical garb or identify himself by any church title. The church, which had continued to pay him a monthly stipend during his suspension, will also stop providing any financial support. He previously had not worked as a priest but was allowed to keep his title.

Defrocked along with Trupia was Michael Teta, 56, who was suspended in 1991 because of a sexual misconduct allegation involving an adult and a minor.

Defrocking, which the church calls laicization, is only applied in extreme cases of misconduct. It comes about only after a long process involving the Vatican.

James Gilbert can be reached at or 539-6854.


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