2 New Suits Allege Sexual Abuse by Clergy

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
November 27, 2003

Tucson diocese is now facing 16 such cases

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson is facing two new lawsuits related to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.

The latest civil actions bring to 16 the number of lawsuits facing the diocese over reports of sexual abuse.

The two suits, filed by two different attorneys, both concern male victims now in their 30s.

One suit names as a perpetrator the Rev. Thomas Purcell, who is serving a prison term of at least 91/2 years for sexually abusing a South Tucson boy while Purcell was a visiting priest in the diocese during the 1980s.

The man who filed that suit through Scottsdale attorney R. Lee Steers Jr. was also the victim in the criminal case.

The second lawsuit was filed by a man who says he was abused by Monsignor Walter F. Rosensweig.

Rosensweig, now retired, was suspended in 1996 after he was accused in a civil action of sexually assaulting an unidentified teen who was a parishioner at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nogales, where Rosensweig ministered between 1972 and 1996.

The diocese in 1997 reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with the then-grown man and last year put Rosensweig on a public list of clerics with "credible" accusations of child sexual abuse against them.

"We are awaiting further information on the suits. We are not familiar with the allegation against Monsignor Rosensweig. That will have to be explored," Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said Wednesday.

"Our desire is to clarify what has happened in the past and to try to address the concerns as best as we can and provide as much assistance as possible."

Kicanas said diocesan officials were not aware of the man who filed the recent lawsuit against Rosensweig through Tucson attorney Doug Zanes.

The diocese immediately notified law enforcement of the accusation, Kicanas said.

"It would be helpful if everything would come forward all at once, but it comes gradually and that can be wearying," Kicanas said. "But the task before us is to understand what is before us and to heal it."

The Diocese of Tucson last year reached an out-of-court settlement with 10 men who said they were abused by four members of the clergy in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The settlement is estimated at between $14 million and $16 million.

Last summer, the diocese's insurance company paid $1.8 million to the families of five girls who said they were abused by a Yuma Catholic schoolteacher and Tucson native, Greg Speers, during the 1999-2000 school year.


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