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  Diocese Settles over Civil Lawsuits That Alleged Molestation

By Arthur H. Rotstein
Associated Press State & Local Wire
January 30, 2002

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson announced a settlement Tuesday with plaintiffs in civil lawsuits that alleged four diocese priests had sexually molested children.

The terms of the settlement agreement with 16 plaintiffs in 11 lawsuits were confidential, the diocese and attorneys for the victims said.

But the terms include public and personal apologies to victims and their families through Bishop Manuel D. Moreno and recently ordained Coadjutor Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas and will have a financial impact on diocesan operations, Moreno said.

"The settlement has vindicated the victims, and the apologies and acknowledgments by the diocese of the abuse of the past will hopefully ensure that this abuse will never happen again," plaintiffs' attorneys Lynne Cadigan, Kim Williamson and William Walker said in a statement.

The settlement affects two defendant priests who are still alive, Father Michael J. Teta and Monsignor Robert C. Trupia, Williamson said.

Both men have been suspended from priestly activities, and a canonical process is under way to have Teta defrocked, Moreno said.

"The diocese will continue to do all in its power to make sure that Msgr. Trupia is unable to resume active ministry and will never be employed in active ministry, as he has not been since 1991," the bishop added.

Codefendants William Byrne and Pedro Luke are dead.

Formal dismissal of the cases will take place once all papers are made final, Williamson said.

Moreno acknowledged in a special report to parishioners that the settlement will bring "very painful consequences to our diocese and its finances," including increased indebtedness that will affect a variety of its services to parishes, schools and communities.

Fred Allison, a spokesman for the diocese, said the bishops were still assessing the financial impact to the diocese.

Defendants included the Diocese of Tucson, several of its 71 parishes, the four priests, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Phoenix.

In a letter to the plaintiffs and diocesan members, Moreno and Kicanas wrote, "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."

In his special report, Moreno also said that the church has learned from the past so that it can help prevent child abuse and respond to it properly.

Moreno said child abuse won't be tolerated within the diocese.

"The allegations of abuse in the lawsuits have been painful for all of us" in the diocese, "but particularly for our many good and dedicated priests," the bishop said.

The first lawsuit was filed in August 1997 in Yuma by a victim who had been an altar boy. Those suing contended that multiple molestations occurred from 1967 until 1989. Several of the cases involved repressed memory and one alleged molestation occurred at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, Calif.

The diocese serves more than 350,000 Catholics across nine counties in southern Arizona: Pima, Graham, Greenlee, Gila, Pinal, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Yuma and La Paz.

Its 42,707 square miles - the fifth largest geographically in the United States - includes 71 parishes, 17 parochial and seven private Catholic schools.

 
 

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