Tucson Diocese Runs Ads Searching for Yuma Abuse Victims

By James Gilbert
The Sun [Yuma AZ]
November 14, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Tucson is placing ads in 53 publications, including The Sun, in a nationwide campaign to locate victims of sexual abuse by clergy or other diocese employees.

The ads notify abuse victims that they must file a claim by 4 p.m. MST Monday or lose their right to seek compensation, said diocese spokesman Fred Allison.

The ad appears in The Sun today and in two consecutive issues of Bajo El Sol, The Sun's Spanish-language sister publication that serves south Yuma County.

"The importance of this is to make sure as many people as possible in the Southwest, and nationally, will know the deadline date for filing a claim," Allison said.

The ad campaign is required by the court as part of the diocese's bankruptcy proceedings. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in bankruptcy court in September in the wake of 20 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs alleging abuse by clergy or other diocese employees. Three of the lawsuits originated from Yuma.

Allison said the ad campaign will help determine how many claims may be brought against the diocese and the amount of money each person would receive as part of a settlement.

"The number of claims will determine the amount of compensation that can be provided to each person who experienced abuse and who file a claim," Allison said.

The April 15 deadline does not apply to any victims of alleged abuse occurring after the diocese's Sept. 20 bankruptcy filing.

Also what's important about the court-ordered bankruptcy protection plan, Allison said, is that it will allow a victim who doesn't remember being abused by the diocese to still come forward and file a claim, even though the deadline has passed.

"The plan submitted to the court allows a person who didn't meet the deadline, because they did not remember the abuse, to still file a claim even after the deadline," he said.

While it's unknown how many abuse victims there actually are, the bankruptcy plan requires the diocese to identify every claim or potential claim it's facing.

The ads, estimated to cost about $60,000, also appear in nationally distributed USA Today, as well as in publications in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado and in Sonora, Mexico.

The lawsuits filed from Yuma County name as defendants the diocese, Immaculate Conception Church and former Immaculate Conception priest Father Juan Guillen.

In 2002, Guillen pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child molestation in a plea agreement in which the 12 original child molestation charges were dismissed. He is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.


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