Father Tu's Holy Mess

Houston Press
December 14, 2009

STATJA -- Last week, a Dallas County court released 700 pages of personnel files from the Fort Worth Diocese pertaining to priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct. Inadvertently, 16 pages related to Father Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen ("Father Tu") were also released. Tu was reassigned to Houston from an Arlington church in 1993.

You can view all of the 16 pages of Tu docs, if you're so inclined, here.

These records indicate that Tu was reassigned over the objection of his parish superior, the Rev. Gary Guertz. The records also indicate that then-Bishop Joseph Delaney (now deceased) did not tell Guertz why Tu was being reassigned.

Tu was reassigned because of complaints that surfaced in 1993 from two sisters who said he kissed and fondled them when they were pre-teens. A review committee stated that the "incident(s) can accurately be described as pedophelia." Tu was sent to a treatment facility, where one of the goals was to "assist him in breaking his denial."

However, nine years later, after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a set of guidelines for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse, Delaney wrote to Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, stating that the allegations were "never proven."

The preamble to guidelines states, in part:

The bishops of the United States have promised to reach out to those who have been sexually abused as minors by anyone serving the Church in ministry, employment, or a volunteer position, whether the sexual abuse was recent or occurred many years ago. They stated that they would be as open as possible with the people in parishes and communities about instances of sexual abuse of minors, with respect always for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved.

The first two pages are summaries of complaints from women who said Tu molested them as children

, but it's not clear who wrote the summaries:

August, 1993

"The committee feels that the incident(s) can accurately be described as pedophilia. One of the social workers stated that gradual acceleration of the described behavior to more serious sexual abuse is common."

"The committee recommends against simply suspending Father Tu and sending him back to the Dominicans. This would give no possibility of surveillance, which it feels that he must have. Furthermore, it would abrogate responsibility by the Diocese, which does not seem appropriate."

"It recommends that Father Tu be sent to long-term inpatient treatment at [redacted] or a similar institution. The purpose would be to assist him in breaking his denial. Therapists there would then recommend whether he could be returned to active duty and under what conditions. The committee at this point feels that it would have to be under close supervision and restrictions about seeing women or children alone."

August 14, 1993 Memo to file on Father Joseph Tu From Father Robert Wilson

"We discussed the possibility of bypassing the normal testing. She checked with [redacted] who agreed that it would be possible, but only with the raw data from [redacted] and not just the interpretation. I reported this to [redacted] who was puzzled and said he had never had such a request. Furthermore, he said that Father Tu would have to sign a notarized release allowing the raw data to go to [redacted].

August 18, 1993 From Bishop Joseph Delaney

"I met today with Father Alberto Rodriguez, O.P., Dominican provincial, and Father Andrew Kolzow, O.P., prior of the Dominican house at U.D. to talk about Father Tu. I shared with them all the information from the beginning about the charges made against [Tu]....They were convinced that immediate action needed to be taken."

"Father Gary Geurtz [of St. Matthew Parish] came into the house just as we were finishing our conversation with [Tu]. I took the opportunity to explain that the provincial had decided that [Tu] needed some time away from ministry and that he would leave after the weekend. [Geurtz] does not know any more than we told him some weeks ago, and assumes that information given him then is the whole story."

September 7, 1993

From: Bishop Delaney to [redacted]

"As I mentioned this morning, I will be available to talk to the therapist about the events that led us to seek help for Father Tu. He has persisted in denying that he has ever done anything imporper."

March 24, 1994

From: Bishop Delaney to Father Alberto Rodriguez, O.P., (Tu's Dominican superior)

"I am pleased to enclose a check in the amount of $10,000 representing a grant to the Dominican Fathers to help with the costs of Father Joseph Tu's recent sabbatical."

June 24, 2002 From: Bishop Delaney to Houston Bishop (now Archbishop) Joseph Fiorenza

"In 1993, two women came forward accusing Father Tu of sexual misconduct with them...They also alleged that there was similar misconduct with at least two young children. This last allegation was never proven."

"I bring this matter to your attention at this time because of the decision of the bishops' conference regarding past sexual misconduct. I am not at all sure that there is a problem with Father Tu's continuing to exercise ministry, since there was no proven misconduct with a minor....However, in reviewing our diocesan files, I did want to alert you to a possible problem. The Dominican Provincial, I assume, would be able to provide a great deal more information."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.