Priest Skips out on Italian Officials

By Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
August 2, 2006

A Catholic priest has dodged justice for a second time, fleeing Italian authorities to avoid facing 13 felony counts of child molestation in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The Rev. Joseph Henn, who had been living under house arrest at the Rome headquarters of his religious order, the Salvatorians, disappeared days before an Italian court ordered his extradition to the United States, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Tuesday.

"Henn has consistently thumbed his nose at lawful authority," he said. "This latest act of defiance underscores his disrespect for the law."

He is one of almost 30 priests who resided in the Phoenix Diocese to be accused of sexual misconduct with children, and he was on track to be one of the last to be brought to stand trial.

Paul Pfaffenberger, Arizona leader of the Survivors Network of those Accused by Priests, or SNAP, said the Salvatorian order was "complicit and morally responsible" for the disappearance. Henn lived at the order's headquarters near the Vatican for a number of years before he was indicted in Maricopa County Superior Court in July 2003.

A representative of the order, reached at its U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee, said those who could comment were in meetings Tuesday.

Henn was placed on restricted duty after the indictment and has been under house arrest there since last July.

"Everybody did the right thing in this case except this Catholic religious order," Pfaffenberger said. "It is disturbing and maddening that the Catholic Church has covered up for this man by providing sanctuary and safety all these years."

Pfaffenberger spoke at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. He said none of Henn's three accusers were willing to step forward at this time.

Mike Haran, lawyer for the Phoenix Diocese, said the diocese had no official comment, "but it is heartbreaking."

"We thought he would come back and face his accusers," Haran said. "We are about healing, and if his victims are to be healed, his return is part of that process."

Haran said one civil case against the diocese in the Henn matter was settled out of court earlier this year. The diocese paid $50,000 in the settlement, he said, and an additional sum was paid by the Salvatorians.

Henn was assigned to St. Mark's Parish near downtown Phoenix from 1978-82.

Thomas said Italian authorities are searching for Henn and have sought a warrant for his arrest from Interpol.

He said he had no details on Henn's disappearance, only that authorities "went to his residence and he was not there."

Thomas pointed out that Henn is one of three priests who became a fugitive by refusing to return to the county to face charges. One of the other two, Joseph Briceno, is in jail awaiting trial after his arrest in California in December. The other, Patrick Colleary, fought extradition and won in Ireland.

As for where Henn is, Thomas said, "I hope he does not make it to Ireland, I'll say that."

Sidebar: Charges facing Henn

Counts 1-10: Child molestation of a single male victim, between June 1, 1979, and June 1, 1981. Nine of the 10 counts allege that Henn knowingly fondled the child, who was younger than 15 at the time. Count 8 alleges he attempted to engage in sexual intercourse with the child.

Count 11: Attempted child molestation of a single male victim, alleging that Henn attempted to fondle a child under age 15 sometime between Jan. 1, 1979, and Dec. 31, 1980.

Counts 12-13: Two counts of sexual conduct with a male minor, alleging that between March 1 and Oct. 31, 1979, Henn engaged in sexual intercourse with a minor under 18 years old.


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