5 Panelists Cite Clergy Abuse Impact on Them

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star [Arizona]
October 20, 2004

Five people who say they were affected by local Catholic clergy sexually abusing children have been appointed to a panel that will represent victims in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

The tort claimants panel, appointed by U.S. Trustee Ilene Lashinsky, includes two women and three men, according to a document Lashinsky has filed with the court.

Two of the men, Thomas A. Groom and Michael Moylan, have pending lawsuits against the diocese in which they claim they were sexually abused as children by clergy members.

All pending lawsuits against the diocese have been stayed since Sept. 20, when the diocese filed for federal Chapter 11 reorganization.

The third man on the panel is Brian O'Connor, a Tucson resident who has claimed he had a sexual relationship with Robert C. Trupia, a former priest who was defrocked by Pope John Paul II in August, and that he also had sexual relations with another local priest, William T. Byrne, who died in 1991, and with former Phoenix Bishop James S. Rausch, who died in 1981.

O'Connor, who was in his late teens when he says the sexual relationships occurred, has not filed a lawsuit against the diocese. In an affidavit he gave in conjunction with another civil action against the diocese in 2001, O'Connor said he was hired by the diocese in 1982 to ensure silence about his affair with Rausch and relations with Trupia.

The women on the panel are Jeanne Metzger and Diana Holmes.

Metzger could not be reached for comment. Holmes has a pending legal action against the diocese, in which she says a family member was sexually abused by Trupia. Holmes filed a lawsuit against the diocese this year, claiming the diocese lied to her about Trupia's admission to molesting boys in 1992.

Diocese officials on Tuesday declined comment on the panel.

Tucson attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who is representing 20 direct plaintiffs in 17 of the 22 pending legal actions against the diocese, said her concern with the panel is that there is no one connected to Yuma, where seven of the direct plaintiffs in the pending legal cases live. The Yuma plaintiffs say they were abused as recently as 2002 and three are still minors, she said. The Yuma plaintiffs also are Spanish speakers.

The tort claimants panel will have its own lawyer in the bankruptcy proceedings, and its members are expected to ensure that any victim of local clergy sexual abuse finds out about a bar date of April 15, 2005, for filing claims of sexual abuse against the diocese.

A seven-member tort claimants panel for the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., which filed for Chapter 11 protection July 6, already has played a large role in court proceedings over that archdiocese's case, most notably by challenging what the archdiocese claimed as assets, and also by challenging a proposal by the archdiocese to settle pending lawsuits through mandatory mediation.

Though the Portland Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy before Tucson, the federal judge overseeing that case has not yet set a bar date for filing abuse claims.

"The archdiocese has proposed a proof-of-claim form that is extremely onerous and quite offensive," said Portland attorney Erin Olson, who along with David Slader is representing several plaintiffs with pending legal actions over sexual abuse against the archdiocese. "The objections have been across the board."

Olson added that she doesn't think a deadline date of six months from now, like Tucson's, is a sufficient time period for filing claims

"Victims of clergy sexual abuse have to go through a lengthy process before they can come forward, and the idea that it can happen in six months is pretty distressing," she said.

A national group, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, has launched a campaign against the April 15 deadline in the Tucson case.

Tucson Diocese bankruptcy attorney Susan Boswell this week filed a proposed claims form that must still be approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James M. Marlar.

The diocese's next court date is Monday.


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