Suit Names Diocese in Abuse Case

By Pamela Hartman
Tucson Citizen
April 15, 1999

Two priests abused their son in the '70s, his parents claim.

A Tucson couple are suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, alleging their son was sexually abused 20 years ago by two parish priests, causing emotional distress and the loss of their son's companionship.

Robert and Rosemary Williams allege their son, William, now 34, was sexually abused and given alcohol and drugs by the two priests from 1976 to 1979.

The parents, who filed suit in Pima County Superior Court, said they were not aware of the alleged abuse until their son recently told them, said their attorney, Lynne Cadigan.

The couple allege that abuse by the late Father William T. Byrne, the former pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows; and Monsignor Robert C. Trupia, a former priest-in-residence at the East Side church, led their son to become seriously disturbed, rebellious and defiant.

William Williams is recuperating from longtime drug abuse and was estranged from his family for many years, Cadigan said.

Bishop Manuel D. Moreno of the Tucson diocese said in a letter to the 65 parishes in the diocese that he feels "concern and sadness" that the allegations have been made, but he couldn't comment on any specifics alleged in the suit, said Fred Allison, director of community relations for the diocese.

The lawsuit alleges that Byrne, who died in 1991, and Trupia, who has been on "non-active" status with the church since 1990, encouraged Williams, then in his midteens, to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and follow "religious instruction" regarding sexual activities.

Moreno said the diocese, which serves more than 300,000 Catholics in nine Arizona counties, does not tolerate abusive behavior by employees.

"Our consistent message in policy is this: child abuse in any of its forms is a moral wrong and will not be tolerated within our structure," Moreno wrote in his letter to members of the diocese. "I press upon you that the deep moral responsibility and sacred trust that children and their parents place in their church leaders and all who work and volunteer for the church must never be violated."

The suit, which seeks an undetermined amount in financial damages for the couple, also names Father Michael J. Teta, then an associate pastor at Our Mother of Sorrows, and former Archbishop Robert Sanchez of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M., as co-defendants, alleging they failed to report incidents of abuse of Williams and other children.

The suit alleges Sanchez, who no longer is archbishop of the Albuquerque-based archdiocese, is responsible for activities in the Tucson diocese and was aware of the alleged abuse.

The diocese "absolutely denies" that it ever failed to report an alleged incident of child abuse, Allison said.

"There are inaccuracies in the claim that will be dealt with in court," Allison added, declining to elaborate.

The diocese has had a policy in place since 1983 outlining responsibilities of employees and volunteers to report suspected child abuse, Allison said.


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