FW Catholic Diocese Settles Sex-Abuse Suit
The Fort Worth Catholic Diocese has agreed to pay more than $4 million to settle a sex-abuse lawsuit involving a priest whom Bishop Joseph Delaney hired despite a documented 20-year history of misconduct with minors elsewhere.
Bishop Delaney admitted no wrongdoing in the suit, but it's clear he knew the risks of employing the Rev. Thomas Teczar. The bishop's own notes, surrendered in the suit, say the priest admitted to him before starting work in 1988 that he was "attracted to adolescents in every way, including sexually."
At that time, Father Teczar had been out of work for four years after repeated abuse allegations led to his removal from ministry in Massachusetts and inpatient therapy at a clergy treatment center. He pledged his personal assets to the Fort Worth Diocese in case it was ever sued over his actions, according to church records surrendered in the lawsuit.
Yet the diocese said on its Web site Friday that "there were no allegations of sexual misconduct" against the priest when he came to Fort Worth.
The Web statement added: "When he left the area in 1993 the diocese had no knowledge of sexual misconduct on his part."
Diocese officials declined to comment beyond the statement, which also said that "to the extent Father Thomas Teczar may have injured anyone," Bishop Delaney was "sincerely regretful."
The bishop knew that the priest was building friendships with young people while working in the diocese, a 1991 memo released in the lawsuit showed. Father Teczar "admitted it was inappropriate" and said he would stop, the memo said.
Bishop Delaney has previously told The Dallas Morning News that Father Teczar disclosed, shortly before returning to his home state of Massachusetts, "that he was being accused of not having reported the sexual abuse of a child to the authorities of Eastland County. ... His attorneys assured me they were in touch with the authorities there, who were willing to drop the investigation if Father Teczar left the state."
Authorities in Eastland County have denied any such deal existed. The county, about 90 miles west of Fort Worth, is part of the Fort Worth Diocese.
Authorities said the priest, who had been leading parishes in the area, fled after refusing to answer questions from a grand jury investigating abuse allegations against two of his adult friends, who were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Witnesses alleged that Father Teczar had been sexually involved with the adults and had urged one of them to destroy pornographic Polaroids of young victims.
Eastland County authorities have said they suspected Father Teczar in 1993 of also abusing children but heard no complaints from possible victims then. In 2002, prosecutors charged him with the 1990 rape of a 12-year-old boy.
Father Teczar has pleaded not guilty to that charge and is free while it remains pending. He has not worked as a priest since 1993 and did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The complainant in the criminal case is one of two accusers in the civil suit that the diocese has settled. He and the other accuser both lived in Eastland County but knew Father Teczar outside church.
One of the plaintiffs will receive $2.75 million and the other $1.4 million. Their attorneys are Tahira Khan Merritt of Dallas and Daniel Shea of Houston.
Father Teczar's troubled history predates his 1967 ordination as a priest, according to court records. Among other things, he was fired from an orphanage after giving a 9- or 10-year-old boy a bath and was kicked out of two seminaries.
After becoming a priest in the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., he was transferred repeatedly, sometimes under threat of legal action. One bishop knew about "a trail of damaged youngsters" in a community where police "threatened to find a reason to arrest him," according to diocesan correspondence.
Worcester permanently removed Father Teczar from ministry in 1984 and sent him to the treatment center. The allegation that led to his removal resulted in a 1991 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Bishop Delaney told The News in 1998 that he knew little about the priest's past, except for the treatment-center stay and the conviction.
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