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  Diocese: 26 Priests Faced Credible Charges since '50

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
February 28, 2004

2% of Tucson-area clerics; 96 victims are counted here

Two percent of all priests who have served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson since 1950 have been "credibly" accused of molesting children, according to diocesan statistics released Friday in conjunction with two national studies of abuse by Catholic clergy.

The local numbers work out to 26 accused priests with a total of 96 reported victims among them. Nationally, a survey conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York found about 4 percent of all American clerics who served during the time studied, between 1950 and 2002, were accused of abuse. That works out to 4,392 of 109,694 priests and others under vows to the church.

Four percent probably does not exceed the results of any other profession dealing with children, though no comparable studies of other professions have been done, said the Rev. Andrew Greeley, a noted author and sociologist from the Archdiocese of Chicago who lives part-time in Tucson and attended a news briefing at the local diocese Friday.

Victim groups locally and nationally say the numbers are too low and, while shocking, do not reflect the enormity of the problem.

"I don't think anyone would say this is all there is. It's all we know," Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said about the local numbers. "It's an absolute tragedy for one child to be abused. It certainly tears at the heart to think there have been 100 credible allegations. . . . This is a sad chapter in the life of the church."

The local diocese percentage comes from one of two national studies released Friday morning in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Victim comes forward

In addition to the John Jay survey, the National Review Board, a panel of prominent Catholic lay people set up by the bishops in 2002 to monitor the survey, presented its own report on the abuse scandal. The review board admonished American Catholic leaders for failing to grasp the severity of the problem and for making "unwarranted presumptions in favor of accused priests."

Researchers collected self-reported numbers from the country's 194 Roman Catholic dioceses and Eastern rite eparchies, which are dioceses of the Eastern Catholic Church. About 65 million Catholics live in the United States, 350,000 of them in the Diocese of Tucson, which stretches across nine counties.

Of the 26 priests classified as accused molesters locally, three are in prison for sexual misconduct and 10 are dead. None of the remaining 13, seven of whom are retired, is allowed to minister in public. A list of the local clergy with credible accusations against them was released to the public in 2002.

"Yes, people should be disturbed by the numbers, but it could be twice as much, not to mention other people affected by this. I'm one victim and it's affected my three children, my wife and my parents," said Michael A. Moylan, a 33-year-old Tucsonan. He says he was sexually abused as a teen-ager by the Rev. Kevin Barmasse, who led his youth group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church on Tucson's Northwest Side during the 1980s.

"It was ongoing. It wasn't forceful. He kind of groomed me with shoulder rubs and it led up to everything," Moylan said. "It happened on trips, sometimes when I was house-sitting he came over, or also up at the rectory."

The Tucson diocese accepted Barmasse for ministry in 1983 with the understanding he'd get treatment related to an accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor in Los Angeles, according to diocesan records. Documents show the priest got treatment and the professional who treated him believed he would be able to minister safely, yet urged caution.

Kicanas has said Barmasse, who worked in the local diocese between 1983 and 1991 and now lives in California, should not have been allowed to minister in Tucson or anywhere else, and such an arrangement would not be allowed today.

The biggest effect on his life, Moylan said, is that he has trouble with authority and is distrustful of others. He struggles with rage toward people in his life who are in positions of power and still finds the extent of institutional cover-up that occurred difficult to process.

"On face value, everything looks great. I have a house, a decent job, cars, a wife and kids, but psychologically it has affected every aspect of my life," said Moylan, a father of three who works as a corrections officer. "My relationship with my wife has been strained constantly; it's hard for me to meet and make friends."

Fleeing Catholicism

Victims like Moylan say the John Jay numbers underreport the extent of the problem, since researchers relied on dioceses to supply the information and also because some sexual abuse victims never tell anyone.

Moylan says Barmasse used to take his youth group on trips to California and the priest would often molest him then. Moylan, whose family moved to Tucson from Illinois when he was 16, said the youth group was the only place where he felt he had friends. He told no one about the abuse.

Now Moylan and two other former members of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton youth group are suing Barmasse and the Diocese of Tucson. The suits were filed in California, which allowed an amnesty last year on filing civil actions in sexual abuse cases that would otherwise have been too old to qualify under the statute of limitations.

"I do think many people think we're trying to damage their church and we're money-grubbing people who want to take down the church. That's not true," said Moylan, who is now getting help through two local support groups for sexual abuse victims.

Moylan no longer considers himself Catholic, and his children are being raised in the Baptist faith.

"I don't want to have anything to do with the Catholic Church anymore," Moylan said. "I went to Catholic schools, I was raised Catholic and I'm glad for the morals they instilled in me, but that's all I'm going to give them."

Moylan has met several other men who were abused by priests and said most of them no longer go to church.

Cost of abuse

In the local diocese, litigation and counseling costs related to sexual abuse of minors by priests has cost nearly $1 million, not including the cost of legal settlements to victims, now an estimated $17.9 million. The exact figure is not available because a multimillion-dollar payout the diocese made to 10 men in 2002 was out of court and confidential.

"The real shame is that it took lawsuits to get the church to take any action," said Lynne M. Cadigan, a Tucson attorney who represents victims of clergy abuse. "If it weren't for the lawsuits, the public would have never known about the terrible reality of this problem."

Greeley said the underlying problem of clergy abuse is with bishops who have allowed abuse and cover-up to occur. Greeley, who said celibacy and homosexuality do not cause sexual abuse, believes allowing lay Catholics to participate in electing bishops would help prevent future problems.

In Tucson, those accused as molesters shared the traits of emotional and sexual immaturity, according to Paul N. Duckro, director of the Diocese of Tucson's new Office of Child, Adolescent & Adult Protection. Duckro said such factors are now taken into account when the diocese screens for new clergy.

Duckro and Kicanas stressed sexual abuse of children occurs in all areas of society. Indeed, there is agreement among experts and studies that the vast majority of sexual abuse involving minors occurs within families and is committed by a parent or relative of the child, though that does not lessen the trauma for victims of priests.

The John Jay study said 10,667 children across the country were victims of priest abuse during the 52 years of the study period.

"This is an issue worthy of our best efforts but it will challenge our best efforts," Duckro said. "Behind every one of those numbers, there is a person."

What Tucson statistics show

Key points from the Tucson statistics on sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy.

Between 1950 and now, 26 priests, one deacon and one nun who at one time served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which until 1969 included what's now the Diocese of Phoenix, have been "credibly" accused of molesting a child.

Accusations involving the 26 priests include a total of 96 victims and 100 allegations of abuse.

Of those 96 victims, 85 were from the Diocese of Tucson.

Most of the reported local cases of Catholic clergy abuse occurred between 1970 and 1989.

Three of the 26 priests are in prison on charges related to sexual misconduct with minors.

Accusations involving 24 of the 26 priests occurred while the priests were working for the Diocese of Tucson.

The Diocese of Tucson is asking the Vatican to permanently remove two of those accused of molesting from the priesthood - Monsignor Robert C. Trupia and the Rev. Michael Teta.

The 26th priest to be added to the list was announced Friday. He is the Rev. James Thompson, a member of the Vincentian Religious Order who served at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Phoenix between 1964 and 1965. He died in 1982.

National costs of litigation and counseling related to sexual abuse by priests: $572 million.

Local costs of counseling, treatment and litigation related to sexual abuse by priests: $926,503.

Estimated local cost of settling local claims of sexual abuse by priests: $17.9 million.

 
 

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