NW Side Priest Not Included in Pima Probe

By Blake Morlock
Tucson Citizen
May 9, 2002

A Catholic priest of a Northwest Side parish, indefinitely suspended for behavior with children the church deemed inappropriate, will not be part of a Pima County Attorney's Office probe of pedophile priests.

The Catholic Diocese of Tucson informed Deputy County Attorney Kathleen Mayer this spring of an allegation that the Rev. Steve Stencil grabbed a 17-year-old boy's penis while at a Casa Grande pool party in 1999, said diocese spokesman Fred Allison.

But Mayer, who is handling a broad investigation of priests who may have molested children and diocese officials who may have ignored the abuses, said her office is not investigating Stencil.

"Father Stencil's name has come up but his offenses, if any, occurred in Pinal County," Mayer said yesterday. She said the diocese discussed Stencil with her.

"We have not been provided any direct information to date that Father Stencil has committed any crimes in this jurisdiction," Mayer said.

Allison said in a deposition made before a slate of lawsuits this year claiming sexual abuse by diocesan priests, the youth, now 20, first claimed the touch was accidental.

Based on that, the diocese did not report the allegation to civil authorities.

"If there had not been certainty and credibility to the boy's claim that the touch was accidental, the diocese would have reported it," Allison said.

In February, the boy changed his story within a month after the diocese settled 11 lawsuits alleging diocesan priests molested boys in the 1960s and 1970s.

The youth said Stencil touched him on purpose. At that point, Allison said, the diocese began investigating the matter and informed Casa Grande police.

Stencil was stripped of his pastoral duties in February 2001 for allegedly taking an overnight trip with children from St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on the Northwest Side.



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