Mesa Priest Is Sued in Boy's Molestation

By Joseph A. Reaves
Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
August 14, 2002

A Valley priest who once criticized Mesa police for failing to notify him that a convicted sex offender was living in his parish has been accused of molesting a boy repeatedly for nearly eight years.

The Rev. Karl LeClaire of Queen of Peace Parish in Mesa was named along with Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and the priest's religious order as defendants in a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

According to the suit, in 1993, LeClaire gained the trust of a 13-year-old boy and began having sex with him.

"Using the power, authority and trust of his position as priest, pastor and principal," the suit says, "Father Karl enticed, induced, directed and/or coerced (the boy) to engage in various sexual acts with him from approximately 1993 to 2000."

The suit contends LeClaire was under direct supervision of O'Brien, the diocese and the Society of the Divine Saviour, and that all were aware the priest suffered from pedophilia, a mental disorder that "caused him to be compelled to perpetuate sexual acts upon young boys."

Attorney M. Paul Fischer of Mesa filed the suit seeking a jury trial, costs of counseling for the victim and mental and punitive damages.

Diocese spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes said the victim came to the church as an adult about LeClaire, and the priest was placed on administrative leave.

However, Perkes was unable to give dates or details because all diocesan personnel records are in the hands of a church-paid screening committee that is looking into the lingering sex-abuse scandal. She said the diocese has not yet seen the lawsuit, and she doesn't know how to reach LeClaire.

In March 1998, LeClaire made headlines when he lashed out at Mesa police for failing to notify his parish and school that a convicted sex offender had moved into the neighborhood.

"I am responsible for those children. I have to protect them," LeClaire said at the time.


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