|Priest Arrested in Area Sex Case
By Abe Levy
San Antonio Express-News
September 4, 2010
A priest who worked in a rural parish west of San Antonio was arrested late Friday for aggravated sexual assault against a teen who claims the abuse took place during private catechism classes and in a hotel room at gunpoint two years ago.
A fugitive task force tracked down Father John M. Fiala in Lawrence, Kansas on Friday, stopping him in his red and black Mustang, according to Edwards County Sheriff Don Letsinger.
On Monday, a grand jury in Edwards County indicted Fiala on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count of aggravated sexual assault by threat, Letsinger said.
Bond was set at $100,000, and Fiala will be extradited to Texas for trial.
He has been a predator for a good while and it will be good to get him to where he can't do it anymore to these kids, Letsinger said.The victim sued Fiala last spring for sexual assault, also naming the archdioceses of San Antonio and Omaha, Neb., and his religious order the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, based in Robstown.
The suit claims all three religious entities covered up Fiala's record of abuse, similar to incidents reported in a global scandal this year that prompted Vatican promises of wholesale changes.
The criminal indictment comes nearly two years after Letsinger first received a complaint of Fiala interfering with child custody. Later, his inquiry expanded to aggravated sexual assault.
San Antonio Express-News coverage about the suit this spring prompted the Omaha archdiocese to reveal that a minor had come forward in 2002 to report an unwanted sexual assault by Fiala back in the mid-1980s. The religious order knew of the accusation, but concluded it was inconclusive.
Officials with the San Antonio archdiocese and the religious order both say Fiala was removed from ministry in October 2008 upon hearing of the child custody complaint.
Fiala was ordained in 1984 and served in Nebraska and Kansas City-area parishes before moving to Texas to his most recent post as administrator of Sacred Heart of Mary in Rocksprings. It is the seat of Edwards County, about 110 miles west of San Antonio and in the San Antonio archdiocese.
Fiala also worked at nearby St. Raymond Mission in Leakey and St. Mary Magdalen Mission in Camp Wood. The suit claims Fiala repeatedly assaulted the youth from Jan. to Aug. 2008 while serving at the Rocksprings parish.
It describes Fiala as grooming the boy into an easy target after first meeting him at age 16 playing basketball for the local high school. Fiala lavished gifts on the boy a laptop computer, cell phone, MP3 player, cash, a car and alcohol, the suit states, molesting him up to twice a month during private catechism classes.
It also claims Fiala gave the teen a ride in a church truck to Big Spring for the teen to visit his girlfriend, but then stopped at a San Angelo hotel.
There, he is accused of raping the teen at gunpoint in a room. On other occasions, the suit says the priest manipulated the teen into performing oral sex, once by leveraging his gift of a car and another time pulling a revolver on him.
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