Priest Facing Another Accuser
Tarrant County: Woman Alleging Abuse As a Girl Is 7th to Come Forward
By Brooks Egerton
The Dallas Morning News [Texas]
March 7, 2006
Molestation allegations against a veteran Texas Catholic priest escalated Monday as a woman swore that the Rev. Joseph Tu abused her twice – during confession – when she was a little girl.
In a court filing, the woman said she was speaking up for the first time because recent news coverage showed that "I was not his only victim." She urged Tarrant County state District Judge Len Wade to unseal records on how Fort Worth Diocese officials handled previous accusations against Father Tu.
"During confession," according to the latest accuser's affidavit, Father Tu "told me to sit on his lap. ... He put his hand on my knee and began moving his hand under my skirt and up my leg and inner thigh toward my genitals.
"I became very nervous. I jumped off his lap. He held on to me, then kissed me on the cheek" and told her everything was OK.
The priest molested her about six months later, but she again managed to flee, the woman said in her affidavit.
The woman's statement comes three days after the priest's attorney told Judge Wade that "no one has ever accused Father Tu of attempted or actual genital contact." The attorney, H. Allen Pennington Jr., has declined to be interviewed by The Dallas Morning News, as has his client.
Church officials sent Father Tu to a treatment center in 1993 after four other women accused him. Two said they were grade-schoolers when the priest sat them on his lap and kissed their lips, faces and necks – which Mr. Pennington has argued did not constitute sexual abuse. The other two said they were young adults when he groped them.
After the treatment center concluded that Father Tu had "a very underdeveloped psycho-sexual personality," he was transferred to the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese. Officials there long kept him on duty despite the church's four-year-old national zero-tolerance policy.
Father Tu has maintained that he's innocent of sexual abuse. His religious order, the Dominicans, has said that an internal investigation cleared him in 1993, but some accusers disputed that in court filings last week.
The latest accuser said in her affidavit that Father Tu sexually abused her in the mid-1980s, when she was 9 or 10. She said her older sister "recently told me that Father Tu also sexually molested her when she was a child," although that sister did not make a court filing Monday.
Seven women have now filed statements in court accusing the priest of molesting them in the 1970s and 1980s, when he worked at St. Matthew Church in Arlington. All have used their real names; The News does not identify sexual abuse victims without their consent.
The Dominicans say that Father Tu has behaved well in Houston but that he is on leave again while they investigate an Arlington child-molestation allegation that came to light last month. The accuser in that case said her mother first reported it to a Fort Worth church official in 1977.
Last month, at the urging of The News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Judge Wade agreed to unseal records on six other accused priests who worked in the Fort Worth Diocese. He postponed a decision on the Tu records.
The judge previously had sealed all the records, which the diocese surrendered during civil litigation with accusers of one priest. The newspapers argue that court records should be open to the public.
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