Diocese Failed to Turn over Records on Suspended Priest

Associated Press, cerried in Dallas Morning News [Fort Worth TX]
December 16, 2006

While Gilbert Pansza was still studying to become a clergyman, he admitted sexually abusing a child in the 1970s to Catholic Bishop Joseph Delaney.

Two years after Pansza's 1998 admission, Delaney ordained him into the priesthood.

Despite a 2002 agreement by bishops nationwide to keep known abusers from serving in the ministry, Pansza continued working. He was eventually promoted to pastor and went on to work at parishes in Fort Worth, Bridgeport, Decatur, Jacksboro and Wichita Falls.

A 2004 order required the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese to hand over records on priests accused of sexual abuse. But nothing about Pansza was surrendered.

The decisions were made by a previous diocesan administration, said John Crumley, an attorney for the diocese. He didn't learn about Pansza's admission until a few days ago, when Delaney's successor found out, Crumley said.

Bishop Kevin Vann, who took over after Delaney's death last year, said that while continuing to review the files of the diocese, officials discovered an admission from Pansza of sexual abuse of a minor. He removed Pansza from active ministry this week.

"I think their first concern was removing him from active ministry," he said. "You sit down and look at everything else later."

What officials found was an abuse allegation from 1998, when someone contacted the diocese and identified an alleged victim of abuse by Pansza. Both Pansza and the alleged victim said the caller was mistaken. But Pansza admitted abusing someone else, before he was a seminarian, said Crumley.

Vann's top aide, the Rev. Michael Olson, reported the information to Tarrant County authorities and officials in the county where the abuse was said to have happened. Olson also is trying to locate the alleged victim, Crumley said.

Since Delaney was to weak from cancer treatment to deal with the 2004 judge's order for priest records, the work likely fell to his two top aides, the Rev. Robert Wilson and the Rev. Joseph Schumacher, Crumley said.

Diocese officials say both priests knew of Pansza's admission.

Wilson and Schumacher declined to comment to The Dallas Morning News and neither works as a top aide to Vann.

No accusations have been made against Pansza, 55, since he became a priest, the diocese said. Pansza most recently led Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Wichita Falls.


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