U.S. Diocese Withheld Information about Sex Abuse Allegations, Documents Show

China Post [Fort Worth TX]
November 29, 2006

Leaders in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese withheld information about the extent of sexual abuse allegations against half a dozen priests and helped them stay in the ministry, according to secret files released by a judge.

The 700 pages, released on Tuesday, show how the late Bishop Joseph P. Delaney and his top assistants dealt with accusers and the priests.

Documents show that diocese leaders and other church officials counted the days until the risk of civil liability had passed in dealing with one accuser; allowed one priest who admitted abusing a child to keep working until his death; and withheld details about accusations to minimize public fallout.

State District Judge Len Wade released parts of the files after diocese attorneys tried to keep them closed for about a year, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News reported in their online editions Tuesday.

The newspapers and several of the priests' accusers asked Wade to release the secret files _ notes, memos and e-mails created and maintained by diocese leaders.

The documents detail allegations against six clergymen, three of whom are dead, including James Reilly.

Last week, the diocese settled a lawsuit with 11 men who said they had been abused by Reilly.

Delaney's successor, Bishop Kevin Vann, has said he hopes the records release "will mark the beginning of a new era for the Diocese of Fort Worth and for our larger community."

"It is extremely distressing and painful to have read these files," Vann said this summer. "I find it all the more painful because I grew up surrounded by great examples of what the priesthood should be."

The files were deemed part of the public record as the diocese was defending itself against a sexual abuse lawsuit against another priest, the Rev. Thomas Teczar, settled last year for $4.15 million (?3.16 million).

In August, the diocese said it would not appeal Wade's ruling to open the documents.


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