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  Panel Investigating Sex Abuse Charges against Late Bishop

By Michael Clancy
Arizona Republic
August 22, 2002

Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien said he is giving the county attorney any material relating to recent sexual abuse allegations raised against his predecessor.

The decision followed accusations by Brian F. O'Connor, 40, of Tucson that the late Phoenix Bishop James S. Rausch abused him starting in 1979 and later referred him to two other priests who also abused him.

O'Brien would not confirm or deny the allegations, but said in a statement the allegations are "distressing" and described Rausch as "a dedicated and devoted shepherd."

O'Connor met last week with Sister Mary Ann Winters, diocesan chancellor. Although the bishop declined to discuss the meeting, he said O'Connor has been offered "professional and spiritual counseling."

O'Connor's allegations against Rausch were detailed earlier this week by the Boston Globe. O'Connor's attorney, Lynne Cadigan of Tucson, said her client does not want to go to court. He declined an interview.

In a recent meeting with Bishop Gerald Kicanas in Tucson, O'Connor asked for a financial settlement, Tucson spokesman Fred Allison said Wednesday. The diocese has issued no response, he said.

O'Brien ordered Winters to turn over any records pertaining to O'Connor's allegation to a panel reviewing diocesan files in response to a Maricopa County grand jury subpoena.

The grand jury is investigating sexual improprieties by priests and diocesan employees and how the diocese has handled such accusations.

Rausch served as bishop of Phoenix from January 1977 until May 1981, when he died of a heart attack.

CORRECTION:

The following was published Friday, 08/23/2002:; An article on Page B1 on Thursday said Bishop Thomas O'Brien will turn over materials regarding Brian F. O'Connor's sexual-abuse allegations against former Bishop James Rausch to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Actually, the materials will be turned over to a committee reviewing diocese paperwork in compliance with a grand jury subpoena. The review committee has not determined yet whether they contain information that should be turned over to the County Attorney's Office.

 
 

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