New Suit Alleges Abuse by Late Priest

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
September 4, 2002

Another former altar boy is suing the Diocese of Tucson, saying he was sexually abused by a local Catholic priest during the 1960s.

The plaintiff, who is now in his late 40s and lives in Phoenix, is also suing the Diocese of Phoenix over claims that he was sexually molested by the Rev. Robert A. Gluch when Gluch was an associate pastor at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix. Gluch died in 1993.

Gluch was one of 15 local priests with "credible" accusations of child sexual abuse against them that the Diocese of Tucson made public in a list it released in June.

Diocesan officials say they know of at least three people, including the man who filed the lawsuit, who have made allegations of sexual abuse against Gluch.

But the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Pima County Superior Court, is the first legal action that names him.

The man's parents have joined their son in the lawsuit. Tucson attorneys Lynne M. Cadigan and Kim E. Williamson are representing them.

Cadigan and Williamson also represented the 10 men who in January reached a high profile, out-of-court settlement with the Diocese of Tucson over 11 civil lawsuits that accused four priests of abusing boys, some of them altar boys, in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

The civil actions also said that diocesan officials ignored and covered up the abuse.

Gluch was not one of the four priests named in those civil actions.

Gluch worked at St. Gregory's between 1964 and 1968 when churches in Phoenix were part of the Diocese of Tucson.

Gluch later went on to work at other churches in the Tucson diocese, including St. Joseph Church, 215 S. Craycroft Road, from 1972 to 1975, and St. Odilia Church, 7570 N. Paseo Del Norte, from 1984 to 1993.

Diocesan spokesman Fred Allison said Gluch was well-loved and respected while he was at St. Odilia's.

However, the lawsuit says Gluch's sexual improprieties were well- known among local priests and that the diocese sent Gluch away to New Mexico for treatment of pedophilia.

Allison confirmed that Gluch was sent away for treatment, but he couldn't confirm the nature of the treatment.

Responding to the lawsuit Tuesday, diocesan officials in Phoenix stressed that when Gluch worked in Phoenix he was working for the Diocese of Tucson. The Diocese of Phoenix was created in 1969.

According to the lawsuit, the abuse began in 1965 when the man, whom the Star is not naming, was 13 years old. The molestations continued for two years, the lawsuit says.

The suit says Gluch sexually molested the boy in the sacristy at St. Gregory's after Mass and in the priest's bedroom in the church rectory.

The lawsuit says Thomas J. O'Brien, now the bishop of Phoenix, at the time was an associate pastor living in the St. Gregory's rectory and "knew or should have known of Gluch's propensities and behavior with boys, but did not report Gluch's criminal acts to the police."

O'Brien on Tuesday denied knowing anything about Gluch's alleged activities with boys in the rectory.

Gluch continued to molest boys at other parishes after he left St. Gregory's, the lawsuit says. Gluch also worked at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Miami, Sacred Heart Church in Clifton, St. Andrew Church in Sierra Vista and St. Patrick Church in Bisbee.

Cadigan and Williamson said they had wanted to send the case to an out-of-court mediator, which would have avoided court costs, but the diocese would not give them written confirmation of their willingness to do so. Without that assurance, they felt they had to file the suit.

"I needed it in writing. I'm not going to rely on an oral promise," Cadigan said.

"We wanted to give the diocese an opportunity to do what they said they would do - take care of victims and mediate it. Then they didn't want to do it. It's unusual they wanted it filed in court."

Diocesan officials said they were willing to mediate, but they had to wait for an answer from insurance companies before they could begin any talks.

"We invite further conversation with the plaintiff lawyers," said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Tucson.

"The lawsuit came as a surprise since it was our understanding the lawyers had agreed to a period of time in which we could explore the possibility of mediation and we were working within the time frame - until theof the year," Kicanas said.

The lawsuit marks the first civil action that Cadigan and Williamson have filed against the diocese since this year's settlement.

Cadigan said she is planning to file at least two more.

Other attorneys have filed a total of three lawsuits alleging sexual abuse in the local diocese since the settlement.

"The diocese now has a series of new policies and is attempting to respond promptly to allegations and to try and do as much as possible to alleviate the pain of abuse by church personnel," Kicanas said.

"We're trying to do our best to address any past histories of sexual abuse."

Allison said that even if the latest case is settled out of court, the diocese intends to be public about it as long as the plaintiffs agree to disclosure.

The settlement earlier this year was confidential, though experts familiar with the case have estimated it to be as high as $16 million.

Allison said Cadigan and Williamson asked for $4 million in their first letter concerning the Gluch lawsuit, though Cadigan says the dollar amount is strictly a starting number based on settlements of similar cases.

The lawsuit comes less than two weeks after a Diocese of Tucson priest in Yuma was arrested on charges that he molested three boys.

The Rev. Juan Guillen remains in jail and is facing felony charges of child molestation.


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