At Least 3 More Accusing Priest

By Darren Barbee
Star-Telegram [Fort Worth TX]
December 7, 2006

At least three more people say they were sexually abused by an Arlington priest, the late Rev. James Reilly, when they were minors.

Tahira Khan Merritt, an attorney who represented 11 men who previously accused Reilly of sexual abuse, said she has been recently contacted by three men who accuse him of abuse.

Merritt was uncertain whether any of the men who contacted her also went to the diocese.

The Rev. Michael Olson, diocese vicar general, said Wednesday that the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese received information from two people about Reilly after last week's court-ordered release of confidential diocese files concerning six priests, including Reilly, who were accused of such abuse.

Reilly, who served at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington, died in 1999.

Last month, the diocese settled a lawsuit with the 11 men for at least $1 million.

"The goal all along of the other victims was to encourage others who had been affected by Reilly to not be silent any longer and to get help," Merritt said. "These new victims coming forward is a positive sign both for those people...and other Reilly victims. It reaffirms that there is healing at the end of this process."

Also on Wednesday, Olson clarified remarks he made last week concerning accusations against a priest who was removed from Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church in Arlington. The cleric was accused of what Olson has termed "sexual harassment" by two out-of-state women several years ago.

Olson said last week that the parishioners at Vietnamese Martyrs had been asked to come forward if they had anything to report about the priest.

But on Monday, a Vietnamese Martyrs priest, the Rev. Basil Doan, told the Star-Telegram that no such appeal had been made. Olson said Wednesday that he had erred in making last week's statement.

"I honestly just ... thought that we had," Olson said. "Then, when I went over the file [Wednesday], it wasn't there."

Olson added that anyone who has been abused by a priest should report it to the diocese.

The priest who was removed has told the diocese that he did nothing wrong, Olson said. The allegations, which involve some type of touching, do not appear to constitute criminal behavior, Olson has said.

Diocese leaders were first informed of the allegations in 2004, said Olson, who became vicar general, the principal deputy to the bishop, in July. Former diocese leaders took steps to try to remove the priest, but he remained at the church until Bishop Kevin Vann had him removed in August, Olson said.

An October letter read to parishioners stated that Vann had "initiated an independent investigation" of the matter but didn't offer specifics. An investigator hired by a diocese attorney is examining the claims.

Doan, associate pastor at Vietnamese Martyrs, said that many people in the 3,000-member congregation respected the accused priest, and that some were confused when the priest was removed. Others disliked the priest because of his strictness, Doan said.

Diocese leaders should have been more specific in what they told the congregation, Doan said. "My own idea is...maybe they [made] a rushed decision."

Darren Barbee, 817-390-7126


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