Controversy Marred Last Years

By Heidi Rowley
Tucson Citizen
November 14, 2006

Bishop Manuel D. Moreno served the Catholic community of Tucson for 21 years, the last few marred by controversy when allegations of sexual abuse by priests surfaced.

In his resignation letter in March 2003, Moreno referred to that time period as "dark days" of "turmoil and difficulty, pain and anguish."

From 1997 to 2001, 11 lawsuits were filed against the diocese, Moreno, priests of the diocese and parishes by 16 plaintiffs who alleged child abuse by priests.

The lawsuits were settled in January 2002. Later in 2002, additional suits alleging abuse of children by priests were filed against Moreno and the diocese.

The suits led the diocese to file for bankruptcy in 2004. One year later, the church emerged from bankruptcy and set aside the beginnings of $22 million that will be paid to more than 50 victims, some of whom weren't able to file claims because the statute of limitations had passed.

During Moreno's final year as bishop, he battled accusations that he had covered up the sexual abuse of the 1980s and 1990s.

In an August 2001 deposition, Moreno admitted he knew in 1992 that the Rev. Robert Trupia, a Tucson priest, likely sexually abused children, but had not been truthful to the diocese or the Vatican about that knowledge.

In February 2002, Moreno denied lying to the Vatican and 300,000 southern Arizona Roman Catholics.

Trupia was removed from the priesthood in August 2004 by Pope John Paul II. He was not criminally charged with abuse because of the statute of limitations.

In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a policy for reporting sexual abuse by priests.

The following month, Moreno announced a policy tailor-made for the Tucson diocese. The policy included mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse to law enforcement, abuse prevention and a process to defrock guilty priests.

When Moreno retired in March 2003 before more than 400 parishioners at St. Augustine Cathedral, he acknowledged the turmoil.

"Yet, even during the dark days you have been generous with your prayers and with your support," he said. "I have learned about living and loving, about mercy and compassion, about pain, sorrow and forgiveness."


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