Diocese Settles Sex Abuse Lawsuit

By Darren Barbee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
April 2, 2005

Fort Worth - The Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese has agreed to a $1.4 million out-of-court settlement with a Texas man who sued the diocese, alleging that a priest molested him when he was a minor.

The lawsuit, filed against the dioceses of Fort Worth and Worcester, Mass., contends that Fort Worth Bishop Joseph P. Delaney knew that the Rev. Thomas Teczar posed a threat to children because of a "sexual interest" in adolescents, according to court documents.

Before moving to the Fort Worth area, Teczar had worked as a priest in the Worcester Diocese, where he was forced out after being accused of inappropriate behavior with a teen-age boy.

Delaney could not be reached for comment Friday. Diocese spokesman Jeff Hensley declined to comment and said Delaney could not speak because he is ill.

As part of the lawsuit, Delaney gave a deposition that states that he was aware of the allegations against Teczar before bringing him to Fort Worth and that Teczar had admitted to Delaney his sexual feelings for adolescent boys.

Teczar worked at parishes in Fort Worth, Bedford and Ranger from the late 1980s until 1993, court documents state. A man who answered the phone at Teczar's home in Dudley, Mass., declined to comment. Teczar is no longer practicing as a priest.

Daniel J. Shea of Houston, an attorney representing the man who says Teczar molested him, said the size of the settlement is commensurate with the damage done to his client. His client, who lives in Texas, is identified by the name John Doe in court filings.

"Bishop Delaney was gracious and apologetic," Shea said. "I think they were sincere. And a measure of sincerity is when you put your money where your mouth is."

The diocese's attorney, James Bennett of Fort Worth, could not be reached for comment.

The settlement was reached late last week. The lawsuit alleged that Teczar groped and raped two minor boys beginning in the early 1990s when he was serving as parish priest in Ranger, which is part of the Fort Worth Diocese.

Since its founding in 1969, the Fort Worth Diocese has settled one other sexual abuse case for $12,500. Shea said that some or all of the $1.4 million settlement could be paid by the church's insurance.

Shea said he believes that the Fort Worth Diocese is responsible for the entire settlement amount. A report published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette quoted Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus as saying that his diocese will not pay any of the settlement because it had no responsibility for Teczar.

Raymond Delisle, spokes-man for the Worcester Diocese, could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

The dioceses and Teczar are still being sued by another Texas man who was part of the lawsuit. His part of the case is pending in a Fort Worth court.

Teczar has been charged in Eastland County with one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, three counts of sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child with sexual contact, according to the Eastland County Sheriff's Department. Teczar told the Star-Tele-gram last year that he did not abuse anyone and that the church is a target because it has money.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars from the $1.4 million settlement will be set aside in trust funds for the victim's psychotherapy, Shea said.

Delaney's deposition states that Teczar was considered a risk by Delaney before he allowed the priest to join the Fort Worth Diocese in the summer of 1988. Teczar had been forced out of the Worcester Diocese and was rejected by two other dioceses before Delaney allowed him to serve in Fort Worth.

In his deposition, Delaney said he spoke with Teczar in June 1988, when he was considering accepting him, about his previous problem in Worcester. According to Delaney's notes about the conversation, Teczar said he took a 16-year-old boy to dinner, and they drank wine. Afterward, in the church rectory, "the boy seemed to be sexually aroused," according to Delaney's notes, which he read in the deposition. "At one point they embraced. Nothing else happened."

Later in the deposition, Delaney said Teczar admitted "to being sexually attracted to adolescents in every way, including sexually."

With the 16-year-old boy, "he was fortunately able to control himself. That may not have been the case on other occasions," Delaney said in the deposition.

Teczar was later found guilty of a misdemeanor for providing alcohol to a minor related to the Worcester incident.

He was sent for counseling in California, where he stayed for about a year starting in 1984. Delaney spoke with one of Teczar's counselors, who told him that Teczar's "time in therapy was very intense and painful but very successful." Before accepting Teczar, Delaney also talked with then-Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of the Worcester Diocese about Teczar's past problems, according to the deposition.

Teczar wrote to Delaney in June 1988, just before joining the Fort Worth Diocese. "In view of the past," he wrote, "I understand the current risks involved and hereby pledge my financial assets towards any settlement the diocese may have to make on my behalf."

In a letter to Harrington, Delaney said that he knew he was taking a risk by taking on Teczar. "Having thought the matter over and prayed over it ... I am willing to give Father Teczar an opportunity to get back into active ministry, fully aware of the possible risks that may be involved," the letter said.

But in a 1998 interview with the Star-Telegram, Delaney said: "I am told that the bishop in Worcester wrote letters to other bishops detailing Father Teczar's history. But I did not get that information."

Delaney said in 1998 that he had received good recommendations from priests at Worcester and from a therapist. In his deposition, he said, "If I had any fear that that problem would ever arise again, I could not and would not accept him at all for any length of time."

Beginning in 1988, Teczar served briefly at St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth. From August 1988 to August 1989 he worked at St. Michael Catholic Church in Bedford.

When Teczar first came to the Fort Worth Diocese, Delaney required that he be supervised, according to court documents.

The supervision, a normal procedure for any priest new to the diocese, ended when he became the parish priest in Ranger in late 1989.

Staff Writer Katherine Cromer Contributed to This Report.


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