|Priest May Be Released Pending New Trial in Texas
By Bronislaus B. Kush
Telegram & Gazette
October 30, 2008
WORCESTER— A coalition of groups that offer support for victims of sexual abuse by priests yesterday called on Bishop Robert J. McManus to use the chancery’s resources to warn the public about the possible jail release of the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar, a Roman Catholic priest formerly of Worcester who was found guilty last year of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy from Ranger, Texas, in 1990.
Earlier this month, a Texas appeals court found that the judge who handled Rev. Teczar’s court proceedings had committed errors and the panel ordered a new trial.
Eastland (Texas) Criminal District Attorney Russ Thomason has said that he will retry the case, but there’s concern among the support groups that the priest will be released, pending a new trial.
Representatives of the groups — at a press conference held outside the chancery complex on Elm Street — also renewed their long-standing request that church officials identify all diocesan priests accused of sexual improprieties and provide the addresses where the clerics live.
A list with the names of the accused, along with relevant documents, was turned over to the local district attorney’s office years ago but has never been made public.
The advocates made their pleas amid posters that bore the photos and first names of children who were allegedly abused, including Jim, Helen, Elizabeth, Susan and several others.
“The problem is that we don’t know who all these predators are and where they live,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which documents cases of abuse on its Web site.
She said Rev. Teczar is “wily” and “resourceful,” and would pose a threat to children if he returns to Massachusetts.
At least three men have charged that they were abused as youngsters by Rev. Teczar when he served in Worcester-area churches.
“We need to protect our children,” added Daniel Dick of Voice of the Faithful.
The groups want Bishop McManus to use the diocesan Web site, newspaper, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements to warn about Rev. Teczar’s possible release and to urge individuals who might know of any crimes committed by the priest to contact Texas authorities so they can provide a more effective second prosecution.
If the priest is released and returns to the Worcester area, the advocates urged Bishop McManus to keep the cleric under constant watch.
Raymond L. Delisle, a diocesan spokesman, said he would let the bishop know of the groups’ requests, and added that the chancery has asked the Vatican to defrock Rev. Teczar.
He said it would be impossible, however, for diocesan authorities to keep tabs on the priest. Although Rev. Teczar is “incardinated,” or formally attached to the diocese, he no longer receives financial assistance from the church and could go about as he pleases, Mr. Delisle explained.
Rev. Teczar began ministering in parishes run by the Fort Worth (Texas) Diocese after Worcester Bishop Timothy J. Harrington barred him in the mid-1980s from clerical duties after allegations surfaced that he had molested Central Massachusetts-area boys.
Rev. Teczar was found guilty by Texas District Judge Steven Heron of three counts of aggravated assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child. The youngster had lived across the street from St. Rita’s Church, where Rev. Teczar was assigned.
The priest, who has been accused of abusing other Texas children, received a 25-year sentence.
Paul Kellen, executive secretary of People of Conscience United for the Protection of Children, said bishops must follow the mandate set by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States earlier this year that prelates must “do everything possible” to comfort and aid the victims of clerical sexual abuse.
“Predators are the most charming and charismatic men and so their unmasking is often understandably greeted by disbelief in the community,” Mr. Kellen said. “How this must burden the abused, who are often told by their abuser that they will not be believed.”
Ms. Barrett Doyle also urged Bishop McManus to be more generous when settling civil court suits with victims.
In Massachusetts, victims can’t ask for more than $20,000 in award damages because churches are nonprofit. However, church officials may offer more.
Ms. Barrett Doyle said other dioceses, including the Boston Archdiocese, have provided much larger settlements, unlike the Worcester church, which, she said, has never settled for more than the cap.
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