Priest Resigns after Revelation That Church Paid Two Accusers

By Joe Stephens
Kansas City Star
February 2, 1994

A Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually molesting minors resigned Tuesday after it became public that the church paid his alleged victims to sign secrecy agreements.

In a written statement, the Rev. John R. Tulipana, 47, again proclaimed his innocence. But he said he was resigning as a service to his church and his bishop.

"It would be extremely difficult for me to cope with the stress that the present climate of distrust has placed upon me were I to continue trying to faithfully minister in the church," Tulipana said.

"My reason for withdrawing from active ministry is the same reason for which I accepted ordination: to serve the Catholic people of this diocese. I consider it a great privilege to have served the people of this diocese, and I consider it a service to...withdraw from the active ministry. " Tulipana, who has worked as a priest since at least 1973, also complained that his image had been damaged "by the way these stories have been reported in the local news media. " In addition, Bishop Raymond Boland told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday that the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph had received an undisclosed number of new complaints against Tulipana this week.

Boland said he had seen no proof that Tulipana had done anything wrong but added, "Where there is smoke, there is fire. " Although Tulipana will remain a priest, Boland said he would see to it that he did not work again as a Catholic minister.

"I do want to assure you he will not be serving as a priest here or anywhere else," Boland said.

On Saturday, The Star reported that the diocese had paid Richard Durocher $150,000 as part of a confidential settlement reached in 1989. Durocher said the "hush money" was part of a cover-up of his charges that Tulipana sexually abused him in 1980, when Durocher was 16.

Durocher recently decided to go public because he thought the diocese had mishandled complaints of sexual abuse.

On Saturday evening, Boland disclosed that the diocese also paid an undisclosed sum to a second person who alleged that Tulipana sexually abused him. The second alleged victim also signed a confidential settlement.

Boland said medical specialists examined Tulipana after each allegation and recommended he return to his ministry.

On Tuesday, Boland also revealed that: Diocesan officials were looking into new complaints against Tulipana, all received since the articles were published.

The diocese paid "a few" other persons who contended that priests sexually abused them. But in each case, he said, the money represented reimbursement for therapy or payment directly to counselors.

Officials knew of no priests still active in the diocese who had been the target of "repeated accusations. " Boland also refused to say whether medical specialists who evaluated Tulipana thought he actually abused the alleged victims.

"That information is governed by the privacy act," he said in a written response to questions.

On Saturday, however, Boland said experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore evaluated Tulipana after each allegation.

"They reported to the diocese this priest was no threat to others," Boland said Saturday, without further explanation.

At a press conference Tuesday, Boland declined to say whether the diocese would try to reclaim the $150,000 from Durocher for breaking the secrecy agreement. He also declined to say whether the diocese would continue to ask victims to sign confidential agreements.

He stressed, however, that the diocese did not try to buy Durocher's silence. In fact, he said, Durocher's lawyers suggested the confidentiality agreement.

"I would deny that it is hush money," Boland said.

Durocher countered, however, that the diocese set the ground rules.

"My lawyers told me they wouldn't deal with me unless I signed a confidentiality agreement," Durocher said.

Durocher's lawyers declined to comment .

Boland did not directly criticize Tulipana or Durocher at the press conference.

"I have been finding it very, very difficult to know who to believe," Boland said. "I'm not totally, completely convinced by anybody in this. " Boland also said he would recommend that the diocese begin reimbursing victims only for the cost of their medical bills.

"We will not in any way give them money which can be used any way they wish," he said.

In Durocher's case, he added, the $150,000 was paid by the diocese's insurance company.

Boland, who was installed in September, was not in Kansas City when the accusations were originally leveled at Tulipana. He said he planned to improve the church's programs for dealing with abuse complaints.

"It is important today that we review the practices of the past," he said, "and acknowledge that the Catholic Church, like many other institutions, was poorly prepared to deal with sexual abuse problems. " Most recently, Tulipana has worked Downtown as a priest at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and at Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

The Official Catholic Directory lists Tulipana as having worked in at least eight parishes since 1976, six of which are affiliated with schools. He was listed as the sole priest in two of the parishes.

Churches where he has worked include St. Catherine's at 4101 E. 105th Terrace; Holy Rosary in Clinton, Mo.; St. Augustine's at 7801 the Paseo; Christ the King at 85th Street and Wornall Road; Holy Trinity at 934 Norton Ave.; Coronation of Our Lady at 13000 Bennington Ave. in Grandview; and Nativity of Mary at 10017 E. 36th Terrace in Independence.

The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese also is dealing with an unrelated sexual abuse case.

On Jan. 18, a youth and his parents sued the diocese and a former priest. The parents contend that the priest molested their son in 1990 and that the church did little to investigate.

Diocesan officials have yet to respond to the lawsuit.


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