Diocese Leaders Implicated after Judge Releases Secret Files
NBC5i [Fort Worth TX]
November 29, 2006
Leaders in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese were not forthcoming about the extent of sexual abuse allegations against half a dozen priests and helped them stay in the ministry, according to 700 pages of secret files released Tuesday by a judge.
The files involve clergymen accused of misconduct with minors. They show how Bishop Joseph P. Delaney, who died last year, and his top assistants -- the Rev. Robert Wilson and the Rev. Joseph Schumacher -- 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.
In that 1995 case, a priest admitted to Delaney that he had abused three boys, but Delaney initially publicly spoke of just one victim, in part to control "how the matter is aired."
"... Because the facts made public are so few, I hope that the publicity will quickly die down," he wrote.
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: William Hoover, John Howlett, James Reilly, Philip Magaldi, Rudolph Renteria and John Hanlon. Hoover, Hanlon and Reilly are dead.
Files for the Rev. Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen, a Dominican order priest, remain sealed because he has appealed their release.
Tu remained in active ministry in the Houston area after allegations first surfaced against him in the 1990s, but stepped down when new claims against him surfaced earlier this year. Tu has denied wrongdoing.
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 court-ordered release of the files is one of the few cases in the nation in which so much information has been released to the public at once.
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.
In August, the diocese said it would not appeal Wade's ruling to open the documents.
Magaldi's spokesman, Jerry Koller, said the priest is innocent and declined to make him available for comment, saying he is in poor health.
Renteria, who owns a house in Dallas, did not respond to a telephone message Tuesday.
Howlett is believed to be living with his religious order in Ireland.
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