Priest Was Cleared in Church Inquiry

By Darren Barbee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram [Fort Worth TX]
June 16, 2005

A priest accused of sexually abusing two girls in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese was cleared after a church investigation found no wrongdoing and the family recanted, according to a recent letter written by Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

In 1993, the Rev. Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen was accused of sexual misconduct in Fort Worth in 1980.

Tu, who now works in Houston, was one of eight priests identified last week by the Fort Worth Diocese as having been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. Tu is the only one still in active ministry.

He told the Star-Telegram last week that the accusations against him were resolved but did not elaborate. Tu could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

When Fort Worth Diocese officials released his name last week, they declined to provide details about the accusations against Tu, a member of the Dominican order. They gave no indication that he had been cleared by an investigation or that he had returned to ministry in Fort Worth before leaving the diocese.

Fort Worth Bishop Joseph Delaney's statement Friday said that Tu "remains in ministry outside this diocese pursuant to the decision of the Dominican Order."

Tu is an associate pastor at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Houston. It is unclear whether the accusations against Tu were referred to law enforcement. Fiorenza's letter does not mention a police investigation.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said law enforcement officers, not the Dominicans, should have investigated sexual abuse allegations.

Clohessy said he also finds it unusual that Delaney would list Tu among the accused priests "if a religious order had cleared him."

Jeff Hensley, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Diocese, referred questions about Tu to the Southern Dominican Province of St. Martin de Porres in Metairie, La. Calls to the office were not returned Wednesday.

Tu last worked in the Fort Worth Diocese at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Arlington from 1980 to 1993. Tu was temporarily removed from St. Matthew in 1993 after the complaint, according to a letter written Saturday by Fiorenza. The letter was read at last weekend's Masses at Holy Rosary, according to a statement from the archdiocese.

Tu was investigated by his Dominican superiors, who found the priest "not guilty of sexual abuse of minors," according to Fiorenza's letter.

"The alleged victims' family confirmed that there was no sexual abuse," the letter said.

At the Dominicans' request, Tu underwent a psychological assessment that ruled out any sexual attraction to minors, Fiorenza's letter said.

"He returned to ministry in Fort Worth," the archbishop wrote.

In May 1994, Tu was assigned to Houston because of the needs of the Dominican order, according to an archdiocese statement.

Since then, Tu "has served with fidelity and dedication to the Vietnamese- and English-speaking parishioners" of Holy Rosary, the letter said. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the church is about 60 percent Vietnamese and 40 percent white.

"There have been no complaints of a sexual nature raised against ... Tu during his 11 years ministry in Houston," the letter said.

"He continues to have the support of his superiors, and he has my support," Fiorenza wrote.

Since 1969, when the Fort Worth Diocese was founded, 28 accusations of sexual abuse have been made against the eight priests, according to the diocese.

Delaney had previously declined to release the names of the priests and has fought to keep their files sealed. The diocese has not disclosed any other information about the accusations against the priests.

On Friday, state District Judge Len Wade is scheduled to hold a hearing in Fort Worth to decide whether the records of other accused priests, uncovered during a lawsuit, can be released to the public.

The Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News are jointly seeking the files, which were part of a sexual abuse lawsuit the Fort Worth Diocese settled this spring for $4.15 million.


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