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  Diocese Settles Sex Cases with 10 Men

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
January 30, 2002

In an agreement that Bishop Manuel D. Moreno says will have "painful" financial consequences, the Catholic Diocese of Tucson has reached an out-of-court settlement with 10 men who say they were sexually abused by local priests.

Since the affected men, their families and the diocese took the matter to a private mediator, the amount of the settlement is not public record. Neither side is revealing a dollar figure, though diocesan officials said the effect on their operating budget will be significant.

Similar lawsuits in other dioceses have settled for millions of dollars.

The diocese, which represents 350,000 Catholics in Southern Arizona, will print a special report from Moreno to parishioners in its Catholic Vision newspaper this weekend that outlines the lawsuits and diocesan policy on child abuse.

"In terms of what's right for the victims, this is what's right," said Tucson attorney William G. Walker, who along with attorneys Lynne M. Cadigan and Kim Williamson represented plaintiffs.

"We are very hopeful that this signals a new era in the diocese of Tucson."

Molested in '60s, '70s, '80s

The men said they were molested during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Churches named in the 11 civil suits include Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church and school, 1800 S. Kolb Road; St. Francis Church and school in Yuma; and Holy Cross Catholic Church in Morenci.

The settlement means that none of the cases will go to trial, and details of the abuse that weren't contained in the lawsuits may never be known. But the diocese on Tuesday, after announcing the settlement, issued public apologies to all the men and is taking steps with the Vatican to permanently remove two of the accused clergymen from active ministry.

"We acknowledge openly and with sorrow that there have been failings in the past by some within our diocese and that you have suffered greatly," Moreno and Coadjutor Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas wrote in a letter to the men, which was also distributed to local Catholic parishes.

"To any other person who may have suffered because of acts of abuse by priests or any employees of the diocese, we again express our profound and deep sorrow and regret," the letter states.

In addition to the 10 men, six of their family members were part of the settlement. Attorneys say more young men may have been abused, but at this time they have no plans to file additional lawsuits.

"There are always only a percentage of victims that come forward where there is an ongoing sexual molestation. We're sure there were others," Walker said.

Clients pleased

The attorneys said their clients were pleased and felt "vindicated" by the settlement. None of the men was talking to the media on Tuesday, attorneys said. Cadigan said the men are looking forward to getting on with their lives after what has been an extremely painful process.

The allegations in the civil actions give accounts of clergy befriending and earning the trust of young boys, plying them with drugs and alcohol, and then molesting them. The lawsuits allege that priests repeated the behavior while officials within the diocese turned a blind eye or covered up the incidents.

"They are very serious cases, and there were serious damages to the clients," Walker said. "The public apologies were a very important part of the settlement for the victims because it erased any doubt as to whether the claims were true. It was a public acknowledgment in good faith."

The diocese said it would continue to pursue action against two of the clergymen named in several of the suits. Those two, Monsignor Robert C. Trupia and the Rev. Michael Teta, are no longer active priests in the local diocese, though the diocese does continue to pay them on a monthly basis - $1,475 per month for Trupia and $900 for Teta.

Trupia, 52, now lives in Maryland. Teta's last known address was in the Tucson area, but he could not be reached for comment.

Trupia jailed briefly

Trupia, who taught and lived at Our Mother of Sorrows from 1976 to 1981, was jailed briefly last year over criminal charges in Yuma related to the molestation but was released because charges violated the criminal statute of limitations. The civil statute of limitations in Arizona makes it easier to file suit for events that happened in the past when repressed memory is involved.

Yuma Detective Sgt. Jan Schmitt conducted the investigation of Trupia and remains concerned about the priest's current activities in Silver Spring, Md., where he lives.

"A pedophile does not wake up one day and say 'I like adults now' unless he has incredibly strong willpower," Schmitt said. "That Trupia may be volunteering has always been a concern of mine."

The diocese is awaiting final action from the Vatican on Trupia's status in the priesthood. Trupia, a canonical lawyer, has appealed the diocese's suspension of his priestly duties, and the diocese is awaiting results of that appeal.

"The diocese will continue to do all in its power to make sure that Monsignor Trupia is unable to resume active ministry and will never be employed in active ministry, as he has not been since 1991," Moreno's letter to parishioners states.

Neither Trupia nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Cadigan, who began filing the civil actions in 1997, was particularly complimentary of Kicanas, the diocese's new coadjutor bishop, for easing the settlement process.

Kicanas, a well-respected auxiliary bishop from the Archdiocese of Chicago, was appointed by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 30 to assist Moreno in overseeing the Diocese of Tucson. Moreno had asked the pope for some help last fall.

Three other actions settled

In addition to the lawsuits settled Tuesday, three other civil actions alleging sexual abuse by local clergy have been settled.

"The victims are very grateful to everyone who told the truth. Many victims who were not plaintiffs came forward and told the truth," Cadigan said. "And they are so glad it's over. It's very painful to go through a trial."

Now the process of healing will begin for local Catholics, said Monsignor Thomas Cahalane of Our Mother of Sorrows Church, the parish where some of the affected men and their families attended church and school. Moreno is expected to be at Our Mother of Sorrows for services Sunday.

"Sexual abuse strikes at the heart of what is most precious in priestly ministry," writes Cahalane in a letter he will read to his parishioners this weekend. "When trust in priestly service is wounded and eroded, even though it is the outcome of the behavior of very few priests, we are all wounded."

Moreno's statement on the settlement of 11 suits

The following is an announcement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson concerning its out-of-court settlement of 11 lawsuits filed on behalf of 16 plaintiffs who alleged sexual misconduct by priests:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This week, a settlement was announced in 11 civil suits that were filed against the Diocese concerning the sexual abuse of children.

It is our duty in respect to the settlement and in fulfillment of our pastoral responsibilities to communicate this apology.

To those on whose behalf the suits were filed and to your families, we apologize and ask forgiveness. We acknowledge openly and with sorrow that there have been failings in the past by some within our Diocese and that you have suffered greatly. It is our hope and prayer that with this apology and acknowledgment you may begin to heal.

In our hope and prayer that you will begin to heal, we offer to you the opportunity to meet individually to hear the remorse that is in our hearts.

To any other person who may have suffered because of acts of abuse by priests or any employees of the Diocese, we again express our profound and deep sorrow and regret. To you, as well as to your families, we ask for forgiveness and pardon.

To the Catholic people of the Diocese of Tucson, we acknowledge that there have been failings in the past by some within our Diocese to respond appropriately to reports of abuse and failings to recognize the harm that child abuse can cause.

In addition to expressing our sorrow and regret, we pledge to you that child abuse in any of its forms is not tolerated within or by our Diocese and that our Diocese is committed to responding to and investigating appropriately all allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct made against anyone associated with the Diocese.

We pledge to you that the safety of children entrusted to the care of our parishes, schools and all our operations remains a critically important priority. We pledge to you that we will fulfill our legal and pastoral responsibilities to respond immediately to any allegation of child abuse.

We ask you to join us now to pray for the healing of all those involved in the suits. We are considering further ways that we can lead you in prayer that both will communicate our sorrow and lead to reconciliation.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Manuel D. Moreno, D.D.

Bishop of Tucson

Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, D.D.

Coadjutor Bishop of Tucson

Text of Moreno's special report to his parishioners

Here is the text of a special report from Bishop Manuel D. Moreno of Tucson that will be communicated this weekend to parishioners in Catholic Vision, the diocesan newspaper:

Following the announcement of the settlement of 11 lawsuits filed against the Diocese concerning sexual abuse of children, I feel it is important that I report to you as openly as I can on some of the pastoral issues associated with the lawsuits and the impact of the settlement on our Diocese.

Pastoral issues:

I have been and I continue to be very sensitive to pastoral issues that have arisen in the course of the lawsuits.

Principal among those concerns has been restoring the trust that we all need to have in the institution and people of our Church.

Last October, I wrote to you at length about my commitment to restore trust. I would like to review here some of the important points I made then about restoring trust.

Allegations in the suits raise questions about how our Diocese has dealt in the past with concerns about child abuse by priests. The allegations and questions create doubt about the trust we should have in the ability of our Diocese to respond as it should when it learns of possible child abuse by any of its workers.

There wasn't the awareness and recognition of child abuse some 20 and 30 years ago that there is today. The laws, policies and procedures that guide society, churches and other institutions today in their response to child abuse simply didn't exist back then. Our Church has had to learn from the past, along with the rest of society, about the realities of child abuse so that it can help prevent child abuse and respond to it properly.

Child abuse in any of its forms is a moral and legal wrong that will not be tolerated within the structures of our Diocese.

For more than 10 years, our Diocese has had in place policies and procedures that require any allegation of child abuse involving any worker (whether priest, sister, brother, deacon, lay employee or volunteer) to be promptly and thoroughly investigated.

Our policies and procedures emphasize and require adherence to the child abuse reporting requirements of Arizona law; an immediate offer of counseling and comfort to anyone who may have been abused and their families; and prompt action to relieve an alleged offender from ministerial or employment duties.

I want to reinforce these points now by pledging that any person who discloses abuse by any employee of the Diocese, whether priest, deacon, religious, or lay will receive a compassionate and pastoral response that is in full compliance with the laws of Arizona and our own policies and procedures.

To ensure that our commitment to the safety and well-being of children remains a critical pastoral priority, I have asked that our policies and procedures and our educational efforts on child abuse prevention be reviewed as soon as possible by our councils and boards having responsibility in these areas.

Another area of pastoral concern that arose because of the lawsuits involves the priests named as defendants.

Two of the priests are deceased; two, Monsignor Robert Trupia and Father Michael Teta, remain suspended from priestly activities.

Concerning Father Teta, the Diocese continues to await final action from the Holy See in the canonical process that was initiated to remove him from the priesthood. This process was initiated for reasons not related to the lawsuits.

Concerning Monsignor Trupia, the Diocese still is awaiting action from the Holy See regarding his appeal of the Diocese's suspension of his priestly faculties.

The Diocese will continue to do all in its power to make sure that Monsignor Trupia is unable to resume active ministry and will never be employed in active ministry, as he has not been since 1991.

The Diocese is reviewing the level of sustenance that presently is provided to the two priests as a requirement of canon law.

Effects of settlementon diocesan finances:

There are very painful consequences to our Diocese and its finances including the need to increase the indebtedness of the Diocese.

This indebtedness primarily will affect the resources available to our Diocesan administrative and program operations that provide a variety of services to our parishes, schools and the communities within our Diocese.

While we will make every effort to maintain services at their current level, it is possible that support for some services may be curtailed or eliminated.

Importantly, please be assured that every penny of every dollar that you give to your Diocese for the support of specific programs and services will be used only for the support of those programs and services.

This applies especially to pledges to our Bishop's Annual Catholic Appeal campaign that is under way in our parishes.

I am confident in saying the Diocese has been successful in minimizing any direct effects on the pastoral mission of our parishes and schools. (Each of our parishes and schools operates with budgets separate from the budget for the administrative and program offices of the Diocese. There will be no change in this.)

On page 15 of this issue, you will see that our administrative and program offices soon will relocate to our new Pastoral Center in downtown Tucson.

This relocation is not affected by the settlement. The relocation will result in a decrease in the cost of administration. Funding for the Pastoral Center came from generous donors and Diocese finances.

Conclusion

The allegations of abuse in the lawsuits have been painful for all of us within the structure of the Diocese, but particularly for our many good and dedicated priests.

I am grateful for all the good things - the loving and caring things - that the priests of our Diocese do in Christ's name. . . .

And, as I told you last October, all the good we do as a community of the faithful to serve, to help our neighbors in need, and to advocate for the oppressed and weak define us as Catholic.

While we continue to do this good, we must remain committed to compassion, healing and understanding for anyone who has experienced child abuse or its effects because a worker for the Church betrayed a sacred trust.

As I did last October, I entreat anyone who has experienced such abuse to please trust us with the opportunity to help you heal, knowing that your trust will help us heal.

You are encouraged to communicate with our Vicar General, Father Van Wagner, or our Chancellor, Mrs. June Kellen. If you wish to initiate confidential and private contact, you may write them at P.O. Box 31, Tucson, AZ 85702 or call them at (520) 792-3410.

Finally, my dear people, Lent is upon us. (Feb. 13 is Ash Wednesday.) May I beg of you, the people of God of the Diocese of Tucson, to offer an extra prayer, offer time of fasting and/or abstinence from meat during this Holy Season, that our Lord may look upon us with mercy and love, forgive our sins and heal those who have been hurt and those who have hurt. . . ."

The diocese's legal troubles: a time line

* The following is a chronology of events related to civil lawsuits filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson alleging sexual abuse of children:

1990, 1991 Catholic Diocese of Tucson relieves the Rev. Michael Teta and Monsignor Robert C. Trupia of ministerial duties.

1991 The Rev. Bill Byrne dies of a brain tumor at age 68. He is named in several lawsuits alleging the molestation of young

boys while he was pastor at Our Mother of Sorrows from 1975 to 1981.

MARCH 1996 An unidentified man files a lawsuit alleging Monsignor Walter F. Rosensweig sexually assaulted him while he was a parishioner at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nogales, Ariz.

1997 A civil lawsuit is filed against Trupia. David D. Frei alleges the former priest molested him between 1973 and 1974 when he was a student at St. Francis of Assisi School.

AUGUST 1997 A monetary settlement is reached with the man who said Rosensweig molested him.

APRIL 1999 A lawsuit is filed alleging Byrne and Trupia sexually abused two boys in the late 1970s.

JAN. 8, 2001 Trupia is held in Yuma on seven felony counts of child molestation. JAN. 9, 2001 The Yuma County Attorney's Office drops all charges against Trupia when his lawyer asserts that the criminal charges violated the criminal statute of limitations.

DECEMBER 2001 An unidentified man files suit alleging sexual abuse by Trupia between 1987 and 1989.

Compiled by Marlene Dekker

Other dioceses have suffered, too

* Some national cases involving alleged misconduct by priests:

1993 The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe sends a letter to its parishes saying the cost of settling more than 40 sex abuse cases exceeded $50 million.

AUGUST 1994 The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix settles out of court for an undisclosed amount with the parents of a boy allegedly molested by the Rev. George Bredemann. Bredemann had already been convicted on three molestation counts.

AUGUST 1997 The Bridgeport, Conn., Roman Catholic Diocese is ordered to pay Frank Martinelli $750,000 in compensatory damages. Martinelli's alleged molestation took place in the 1960s and involved the Rev. Laurence Brett.

JULY 1998 The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas agrees to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who say they had been molested by Rudolph Kos. Kos was stripped of his priesthood and sentenced to life in prison.

AUGUST 2000 The San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese bans youth rectory workers to avoid lawsuits. The action follows an undisclosed settlement involving a Burlingame priest's inappropriate behavior with several children.

JANUARY 2002 A Cambridge, Mass., jury convicts defrocked priest John Geoghan of indecent assault and battery stemming from a 1991 incident. He still faces 84 civil lawsuits and two other criminal cases.

 
 

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