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  Seven Priests Accused of 1960s Sex Abuse

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
June 12, 2004

Another accusation of sexual abuse by clergy who once worked in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson surfaced this week in a civil action filed in Pima County Superior Court.

The lawsuit, which in addition to the diocese also names Immaculate Heart Academy as a defendant, brings to 19 the number of pending lawsuits against the diocese involving allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy.

One of those cases, involving sexual-abuse claims by a former Tucson altar boy against Monsignor Robert C. Trupia, whom the diocese is trying to permanently remove from the priesthood, is scheduled to go to trial in Tucson on June 29.

The latest legal action involves alleged sexual misconduct - though the lawsuit does not explain any details of the misconduct - by seven priests four decades ago.

The legal action lists only the last names for the majority of the clergy, and lists few specifics other than a time frame between 1962 and 1965.

According to the lawsuit, all seven priests sexually molested the plaintiff when she was a student at Immaculate Heart.

"We are saying only that we have received notice of the suit and we have followed our policy," said Paul Duckro, director of the diocese's Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection.

"We are taking it very seriously and examining what is alleged and comparing it to the information available to us, but it is naturally very, very hard to investigate things alleged to have happened years and years ago. We're doing the best we can but it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment further."

Tucson attorney Bruce G. MacDonald, who filed the legal action, refers to the plaintiff only as "Jane Doe."

MacDonald declined to comment.

The legal action repeatedly refers to alleged misconduct by the Rev. Paul Ranft, who died in 2001 at the age of 86.

Ranft ministered at the now-closed Downtown All Saints Catholic Church and, according to the lawsuit, also at the then-Downtown Immaculate Heart Academy. The school, operated by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is now on Tucson's Northwest Side.

Ranft moved to Tucson from Kentucky in 1953 because of health problems, including severe asthma, according to diocesan records.

Diocese officials, who have no history of complaints involving Ranft, say they will share the information about the allegations with the Pima County Attorney's Office.

Ranft is not on the list of clerics with "credible" accusations of sexual misconduct with children against them, which the diocese first made public in summer 2002 shortly after reaching a multimillion- dollar settlement with 10 men who said they were molested by six local clergymen during the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

The list has grown since 2002 and now includes the names of 26 clerics.

The latest lawsuit says Jane Doe did not realize she had been molested until October 2002. In order to file a civil action on an old sexual abuse case in Arizona, a plaintiff must prove he or she had repressed memory of the abuse. All 10 men who settled with the diocese in 2002 said they'd repressed their memories of molestation.

The civil action seeks no specific dollar amount but asks the diocese for compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal costs and "other and further relief."

The diocese has already paid out more than $17 million in settlement money to people who say they were sexually abused by Diocese of Tucson employees, most of them priests.

 
 

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