Former Austin Priest Accused of Abusing Boy

By Eileen E. Flynn
Austin American-Statesman (Texas)
April 23, 2002

A $5.5 million lawsuit filed Monday in Portland, Ore., accuses a former longtime Austin priest of sexually abusing a boy in his parish there 50 years ago.

The complaint against the Archdiocese of Portland and the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle of Oregon alleges that the Rev. Rocco Perone, a Paulist priest, molested the boy dozens of times at St. Philip Neri Church over a two-year period beginning in 1951, when the victim was 9.

The victim's lawyer, Kelly Clark, said the boy was a student at the parish school where Perone befriended him and frequently heard his confession.

The suit also claims that the archdiocese and the Paulist order were notified of Perone's behavior in 1953 but did nothing about it and transferred the priest to another state.

Bud Bunce, spokesman for the Portland Archdiocese, said Monday that the archdiocese never received any complaints about Perone during his tenure at St. Philip Neri.

The president of the Paulist order, the Rev. Frank DeSiano, could not be reached.

Clark said several other men have confirmed the allegations and are considering filing claims. No Austin victims have been found, he said.

"My hunch is, if we have a priest who's abusing five or six kids in the early '50s . . . I'm terribly afraid we have a 30-year history here, a whole trail of broken lives," Clark said.

Perone was assigned in 1957 to St. Austin's Catholic Church, which served as his base parish for 31 years while he did missionary work in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Following his retirement from St. Austin's in 1988, Perone worked in India for the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa.

In 1991, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he died the following year at age 72.

Helen Osman, spokeswoman for the Austin Diocese, said there was nothing in his file to indicate that any concerns had been raised in Austin.


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