Diocese Faces Another Lawsuit

By Gary Grado
East Valley Tribune [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded March 25, 2004

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, who could be sent to prison Friday for a hit-and-run conviction, were sued Monday for the eighth time in the past year over allegations that priests molested children.

Chandler resident Harry Takata, 35, is the latest plaintiff. He alleges in the eight-count lawsuit that O’Brien and the church committed fraud by not warning his parents about his abuser’s previous sexual misconduct and maintaining a long-standing policy of keeping sexual abuse allegations secret.

"The main thing I’d like to see happen is for the church to own up to the fact of what went on and for them to claim responsibility for a lot of events," Takata said.

Former priest John Giandelone admitted to molesting Takata. He was placed on probation after he pleaded guilty in 1984 to one count of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor.

The lawsuit states that Takata was repulsed by Giandelone’s sexual touching, but his reverence for priests and devotion to the church was so strong that he couldn’t resist the priest or bear to tell his parents.

Proceedings and records in Maricopa County Superior Court show that O’Brien sent Giandelone to St. Mary’s Parish in Chandler, where Takata was an altar boy, having known that Giandelone molested a teenager at St. Joseph’s Parish in Phoenix in 1979.

Giandelone is serving a prison term for the 1979 crime.

Diocese spokeswoman Mary Jo West said she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because Bishop Thomas Olmsted and the diocese attorneys hadn’t seen it yet.

None of the recent lawsuits have gone to trial so there haven’t been any judgments and no financial settlements yet, according to court records, but there has been a financial impact.

West said the sexual misconduct issue affected last year’s donations in the Charity and Development Appeal, the diocese’s major campaign for raising funds for its many charities.

Bill Schwanekamp, director of stewardship for the diocese, said the campaign has raised $8.2 million since it began on the first weekend of February, which is about $200,000 more than what was collected at this time last year.

"We feel we are on the way back in getting trust back from our parishioners," West said.

Contact Gary Grado by email, or phone (602) 258-1746