Priest Accused of Abuse in FW Diocese Is Suspended
Catholic Officials Change Course on Cleric in Molestation Inquiry

By Brooks Egerton
The Dallas Morning News [Texas]
February 28, 2006

Catholic Church officials have reversed course and suspended a priest who is accused of molesting at least three girls and three young women in the Fort Worth Diocese.

The Rev. Joseph Tu cited as an example of U.S. bishops' failure to fully enforce "zero tolerance" discipline reforms is on leave while his superiors investigate the latest child abuse allegation to come to light.

"Father Tu continues to deny the allegations, and this is not an admission of guilt," Galveston-Houston Archdiocese spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor said Monday. She said that his religious order, the Dominicans, made the suspension after hearing concerns from her boss, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

Father Tu has been working in a Houston parish since leaving Fort Worth in 1994, after molestation allegations got him sent to a treatment center and diagnosed with "a very underdeveloped psycho-sexual personality."

The priest answered the phone Monday at Holy Rosary Church and referred a reporter to Regina Wedig, a Louisiana attorney who represents him and the Dominicans. She said that the order's policy provides for suspension while abuse allegations are investigated.

"We have no information that this was ever reported or investigated" before, she said.

But the woman making the allegation said church officials have known about it since 1977, when she was 13 or 14. She said that Father Tu, against her instructions, visited her Arlington home and fondled her breasts.

She said she reported the incident promptly to her mother, who then alerted another priest. Soon, she said, church officials sent Father Tu to Iowa.

Fort Worth diocesan records say that he was in Iowa from 1977 to 1979 for a "study leave."

Ms. Wedig cautioned: "I don't think it's proper to say that he was sent. He went off to finish his master's in theology."

The accuser was pleased Monday when told that Father Tu had been suspended.

She said she had been feeling "a bit defeated" by the sense that church officials were discounting her story.

Two weeks ago, the woman and other accusers asked a Tarrant County judge to unseal records of abuse allegations against Father Tu and six other priests who worked in the Fort Worth Diocese.

State District Judge Len Wade agreed Thursday to release some records, which the diocese had surrendered during litigation with alleged victims of another priest.

Judge Wade oversaw that litigation and initially sealed the records at church officials' request, prompting a legal challenge from The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Church officials are expected to appeal his unsealing order, which doesn't apply to Father Tu. Judge Wade said he needed more time to evaluate assertions, made by another attorney for the priest, that the records don't contain abuse allegations.

That attorney, H. Allen Pennington, said the records describe only the kissing of two other girls. The U.S. bishops' reforms, adopted in Dallas in 2002, don't define whether such behavior is sexually abusive.

Ms. Gonzales Taylor, the Galveston-Houston archdiocesan spokeswoman, said this month that Archbishop Fiorenza was leaving Father Tu on duty while waiting for the Dominican order to investigate the latest child abuse allegation.

The archbishop typically leaves accused priests on duty in such circumstances unless the alleged abuse occurred recently, the spokeswoman said then. Father Tu, she said, has not been accused of sexual misconduct by any Houston parishioners.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that bishops around the country are suspending priests only when there's public pressure.

"The most fundamental promise the bishops made to quickly remove accused priests has been broken," he said. A national spokesman for the bishops recently told The News that they were aggressively enforcing the 2002 reforms. More than 700 priests have been removed from ministry since then, he said.


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