Letters Suggest Diocese Knew about Child Abuser
Former Uxbridge Priest Being Sued by Parishioner
By Richard Nangle
Sunday Telegram (Massachusetts)
February 10, 2002
- As early as 1967, the Catholic Diocese of Worcester knew it had a problem with the Rev. Thomas Teczar. That knowledge, however, did not prevent Rev. Teczar from continuing to receive assignments as a priest and later being sued for sexual abuse.
Rev. Teczar, now 60, was accused in a lawsuit filed in 1996 in Worcester Superior Court of repeated sexual abuse of a teen-age boy more than 20 years earlier at St. Mary's Church in Uxbridge. The plaintiff, David Lewcon, now a Webster resident, also named the Worcester Diocese in the lawsuit, maintaining church authorities failed to properly supervise and monitor Rev. Teczar.
The suit against the priest, filed in 1996, has not yet come to court, but Mr. Lewcon accepted an undisclosed sum to remove the Worcester Diocese as a defendant in the case.
The Sunday Telegram last week obtained considerable correspondence among various bishops, priests and other church authorities that suggests clear-cut parallels between the cases of Rev. Teczar and John Geoghan, the now-defrocked priest from the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston who at least 130 people say sexually abused them as children at parishes where he worked. Rev. Teczar remains a priest, but was placed on administrative leave several years ago and cannot perform any priestly duties.
The Boston Archdiocese has taken a number of steps in recent weeks to address the problem of pedophile priests.
Cardinal Bernard F. Law has assured those in his archdiocese that all priests known to have sexually molested minors have been removed from their assignments. He also mailed a three-page letter to parishioners on Jan. 26 in which he apologized for previously reassigning priests who were known child molesters to parish work.
In addition, the Boston Archdiocese has provided district attorneys with the names of priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
A priest in the Worcester Diocese, who asked not to be identified, said local priests have not been told that any similar steps will be undertaken here. He said Bishop Daniel P. Reilly did send a letter last week to all priests in the diocese offering them encouragement, and expressing concern for the victims of abuse by clergymen and support for those in the clergy who have acted in manner consistent with their vocation.
Meanwhile, at least one priest accused of sexually abusing a youngster continues to serve in a parish in the Worcester Diocese.
The Rev. Peter J. Inzerillo was sued for sexual abuse in the mid-1990s while he was assigned to St. Anthony de Padua Church in Fitchburg. He initially was placed on administrative leave. After the suit was settled in favor of the plaintiff, Rev. Inzerillo was reassigned to St. Leo Church in Leominster, where he continues to serve as associate pastor.
Reporters attempting to speak on Friday with Bishop Reilly, Rev. Rocco Piccolomini, vicar for priests, and other diocese authorities were told any comment would have to come from diocesan spokesman Raymond L. Delisle.
Warning signs concerning Rev. Teczar were noted in a letter then-Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan wrote to Monsignor David M. Elwood, an administrator in the Worcester Diocese, on June 6, 1967. At the time, Rev. Teczar had completed his studies to become a priest and was working for the diocese while awaiting ordination.
Bishop Flanagan asked the monsignor for his "impressions of Thomas Teczar" and instructed him to "write me just a brief note saying whether you feel that he should be given a further testing in another parish or not."
Monsignor Elwood wrote back the next day, suggesting that the candidate needed another assignment before being ordained. "If some of his mistakes here do not reappear in the new assignment," he wrote, "I think we can consider him a reasonably good candidate for ordination.
"... I would suggest that no further warnings should be given about his formerly manifested predilection for intimate and rather exclusive companionship with young boys," the monsignor added. "If this breaks out again, I do not think he should be ordained. If he thinks the new pastor or curate has been alerted to it, he may merely suppress the inclination. If no mention of it is made, I think it might manifest itself again -- this on the possibility that he conformed to my advice without agreeing inwardly with it."
On June 9, 1967, Bishop Flanagan wrote back, "I hope that the young man will profit by the guidance which you have given him and that this will be manifested by his attitudes and behavior in the new assignment which I am now giving him.
"He will report to St. Paul's Cathedral on next Wednesday, June 14, 1967."
Just how much attention the diocese gave to Rev. Teczar and his problem with young boys may never be known. There is evidence, however, that he was the subject of much concern to church authorities as late as 1986, when Bishop Timothy J. Harrington was in charge of the diocese.
On Oct. 31 of that year, Monsignor Raymond J. Page, vicar general of the diocese, wrote to Bishop Reilly, then in charge of the diocese serving Norwich, Conn.
"Father Teczar is a priest of this diocese," Monsignor Page wrote. "Bishop Harrington has granted him a leave of absence with the suggestion that he seek a benevolent bishop.
"Tom's difficulties came to a head two years ago when a 16-year-old boy accused Tom of soliciting him," the letter continued. "The boy and his parents, who were from a town where Tom had formerly served, came to see me and asked that the diocese take action to remove Tom from active ministry. They threatened to press criminal charges if we did not act."
The letter states that Rev. Teczar, at first, denied the seriousness of the incident and then agreed to resign from the parish.
"When he left, we were flooded with letters of support from his parishioners," Monsignor Page wrote, adding that Rev. Teczar went into residential therapy.
"It was a blow to Tom when Bishop Harrington informed him one year ago that he could not give him another assignment in the Diocese of Worcester, even though he had completed the therapeutic program. Bishop Harrington's reasoning is that Tom is too well-known in our compact diocese. Though there was never any publicity about Tom's situation and the diocese worked out a settlement with the family involved, still there was a lot of 'talk.' "
Monsignor Page also wrote Bishop Reilly that "Bishop Harrington says there has long been a cloud of suspicion over Tom. Bishop Harrington knows a trail of damaged youngsters he left in one town. The police there were far from pleased. In that town, the police threatened to find a reason to arrest him if he returned there.
"Bishop Harrington says that we could not face him with his problem because the accusers refused to face him. In those instances, he denied any misbehavior."
The letter concludes: "I am sure Tom must be grateful to you for at least giving him a hearing. I hope this information will help in what I know will be a difficult decision for you. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know."
Rev. Teczar never received an assignment in the Norwich Diocese, instead going to work in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was a priest at four different parishes. His career there ended in 1993 after he quickly left the state during a criminal investigation into child molestation in Eastland County, Texas.
Not long after, Rev. Teczar was back in Massachusetts and living in Dudley.
In August 1998, Bishop Joseph P. Delaney, of the Fort Worth Diocese, said Rev. Teczar told him in 1993 that he was being accused of not having reported the sexual abuse of a child to Eastland County authorities.
"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," Bishop Delaney said.
It was a statement that provoked outrage from the national office of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
A spokesman for the group said at the time that Bishop Delaney's willingness to make such a deal showed that church leaders "value secrecy and silence over protection of kids."
Bishop Delaney said at the time that he wrote Bishop Harrington to thank him for "frank and open" discussion of the Worcester bishop's concerns when Rev. Teczar was being considered for an assignment in the Fort Worth Diocese. Bishop Delaney wrote that he was willing to give Rev. Teczar an opportunity, "fully aware of the risks that may be involved."
Despite the fact that Rev. Teczar lives in neighboring Dudley, Mr. Lewcon said the only time he has seen him since his return to Massachusetts was while he was giving his deposition in the lawsuit.
In his suit, Mr. Lewcon alleges that he was sexually abused repeatedly by Rev. Teczar in 1971 and 1972 when Rev. Teczar was assigned to St. Mary's Church in Uxbridge and Mr. Lewcon was a teen-age member of the parish.
Mr. Lewcon maintains that the abuse caused him mental distress and emotional harm. He said he did not begin to understand that he had been damaged by Rev. Teczar's alleged conduct until 1993.
"He did not appreciate the connection between the harm he suffered and the defendant's conduct until he achieved various realizations and awareness after years of suffering and attempting to cope on his own with the effects of the defendant's abusive treatment and eventually seeking specialized counseling," the lawsuit stated.
Mr. Lewcon described Rev. Teczar as friendly but with "a hidden agenda" and said at the time of the lawsuit that his aim was to prevent him from ever working again as a priest.
"I settled my case with the church about a year-and-a-half ago," Mr. Lewcon said last week. "The church wanted to cooperate after awhile and settle, the priest didn't."
Mr. Lewcon said he has been frustrated by repeated delays and has been ready to go to trial for some time.
"I know in my own situation, as well as a few others in Worcester County, that the bishop at the time knew the particular priest had problems and did nothing," he said.
"Harrington allowed Tom Teczar to exist. Flanagan ordained him knowing he had a problem," he said. "After a while, Harrington smartened up and moved him along."
Mr. Lewcon said a nun who was familiar with the situation told him that no priest in the diocese had been transferred as often as Rev. Teczar.
"When I first filed my case, it was back when people were finding it hard to believe that priests could be pedophiles," he said. "I got hate mail, phone calls, now the public is so educated I really pity the priests that are not pedophiles because they are looked on as pedophiles."
Mr. Lewcon said he has talked with others who tell him they were abused by the priest, but do not want to come forward. He said they described a familiar pattern with Rev. Teczar first plying them with alcohol.
"When you're 15 or 16, alcohol is an incredible validation of being an adult," Mr. Lewcon said.
Some local victims of pedophile priests are reluctant to talk about their cases because their settlement agreements specifically prohibit them from doing so. Others have retained the right to speak publicly by settling for lesser amounts than they could have had. Such settlements generally are in the $12,000 to $15,000 range.
Mr. Lewcon and others who maintain they were victims of pedophile priests say they are looking for a strong response from Bishop Reilly to correct problems.
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