Warning of Suspected Priest Pedophile May Have Come Too Late

October 25, 2006

Wilmington, Del. -- Catholic Church officials in New York were warned several years ago that a former Delaware priest arrested on child sexual abuse charges last week was a suspected pedophile, but only after the man allegedly began molesting a New York boy.

Francis G. DeLuca, 77, was arrested Oct. 19 and charged with repeated sexual abuse of a Syracuse, N.Y. boy.

DeLuca was removed from the ministry in Delaware in 1993 after officials with the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington learned of credible sexual abuse allegations against him dating to the 1960s.

A former Wilmington bishop accepted DeLuca's early retirement in December 2003 "for reasons of health" and forbade him from engaging in active public ministry without permission, according to documents obtained by The (Wilmington) News Journal.

"Only you can agonize more than I over the tragedy that your actions of so many years ago has (sic) caused you and the Church," Bishop Robert Mulvee wrote in a 1993 letter to DeLuca. "... Frank, you will always have a special place in my prayers and Masses."

DeLuca moved back to his hometown of Syracuse, but the Wilmington diocese did not inform Syracuse church officials about his past until 10 years later.

Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington notified Syracuse officials in an October 2003 letter that DeLuca had been removed from active ministry because of "credible allegations of the sexual abuse of minors."

The Syracuse accuser, now 18, told his mother he was molested by DeLuca from the time he was 12 or 13 until he was 17.

DeLuca was not serving as a priest during the period of the most recent allegations, according to Wilmington and Syracuse church officials. He was never charged or convicted in connection with the previous allegations, so authorities did not monitor his behavior or contact with children.

Tony Flynn, an attorney for the Wilmington diocese, said there was no procedure or policy in place in the 1990s requiring church officials to alert their counterparts elsewhere of credible abuse allegations against a cleric.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted stronger policies to protect children and improve reporting practices following a nationwide church sex abuse scandal surfaced in 2002.

Flynn, who said at least four people have made allegations about DeLuca to the Wilmington diocese, said diocesan officials in Wilmington may have corresponded with church officials in Syracuse regarding DeLuca prior to 2003.

Danielle Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Syracuse diocese, said she was unaware of any prior correspondence.

Paul Hanrahan, an attorney representing the Syracuse diocese, did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.


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