Ex-Valley Priest Arrested in Italy

By Lawn Griffiths
East Valley Tribune [Arizona]
July 19, 2005

A former Phoenix priest, accused of child molestations dating back to 1979, was arrested Saturday in Rome by Italian police.

Joseph J. Henn, 56, was under house arrest at the headquarters of his Salvatorian order near St. Peter's Square, according to his attorney speaking to, an international news service. The attorney said it would be up to an Italian court to work out extradition of Henn.

Henn, who served St. Mark's Catholic Parish, 400 N. 30th St., from 1978 to 1982, was indicted in July 2003 in Maricopa County as part of a major investigation of child sexual abuse by priests going back to the 1970s. He is accused of molesting three boys, ages 11, 13 and 15, from June 1979 to June 1981. At the time, former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley said he believed Henn was in Rome.

"We haven't received any notification from the State Department that anything has happened," county attorney spokesman Bill FitzGerald said Monday. "We can't do anything without them. It has to go nation to nation.

"If the information is true, then we are one step closer to Mr. Henn being returned to Arizona to face charges" he said.

The Salvatorians — The Society of the Divine Savior — are one of several Catholic religious orders in Rome accused of sheltering American priests wanted in sexual misconduct cases. Henn was among seven priests identified in Rome last September in a Dallas Morning News report. It said that supervisors of the accused priests claimed they were not trying to help wanted clergymen elude prosecution or redress from their victims, but that they sought to provide them a place to live and work away from children.

According to a statement from the Salvatorian order, its officials ordered Henn to return to the U.S. to face charges, but he refused.

Henn's attorney said that if the priest agrees to extradition, his return could come quickly. Romley had written the Vatican secretary of state in June 2003, asking him to exercise his "vows of obedience" authority to get Henn and other fugitive priests to turn themselves in.

Paul Pfaffenberger, Arizona leader for the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests, lauded the county's pursuit of Henn and said he hoped the priest would not fight extradition. "We trust that Henn's arrest makes children safer in Italy," he said.

Pfaffenberger said he hopes arrests will come for two other fugitive diocesan priests, facing child molestation charges — the Rev. Joseph Briceno, believed to be in Mexico, and the Rev. Pat Colleary, living in Ireland. Briceno formerly served in St. Mary's Catholic Church in Chandler, and Colleary served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale.


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