Prosecutor: Diocese Can Handle Own Affairs

By Michelle Roberts Rushlo
Associated Press, carried in Tallahassee Democrat
September 13, 2004

PHOENIX - The Roman Catholic Diocese has made changes in the way it handles priest sex abuse allegations and no longer needs to be supervised by prosecutors, authorities said Monday.

The Diocese operated under the watchful eye of the county prosecutor's office under a deal reached last year. It barred Bishop Thomas O'Brien from being involved in sex abuse allegations in return for not charging him with covering them up.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who became head of the Diocese in December, may now oversee the abuse allegations, said Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

"The church has made tremendous efforts to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

The agreement came after O'Brien acknowledged accused priests were allowed to work with children and sometimes were transferred to other parishes without the knowledge of supervisors or parishioners.

Shortly after the agreement was announced, O'Brien was arrested in a fatal hit-and-run accident and resigned. He was later convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Changes at the Diocese include the appointment of a youth protection advocate who reports abuse allegations to both law enforcement officials and the church hierarchy, and training for church employees and volunteers who work with children.


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