Ex-Valley Priest Indicted in Cases of Molestation

By Dennis Wagner
Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
August 6, 2003

A Roman Catholic priest who spent four years at St. Mark's Parish in east Phoenix has been indicted on charges of sexually abusing at least three boys nearly a quarter century ago, molestations that reportedly took place in a swimming pool and the church rectory.

The Rev. Joseph John Henn, 54, has not been arrested because he is stationed in Rome. Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said extradition proceedings are under way. In the meantime, he added, Henn's Salvatorian Order has placed him on restricted duty.

Henn was at St. Mark's from 1978-82. The 13-count indictment claims he fondled and rubbed against one of the victims, an altar boy, in 1979 while in a swimming pool and again in 1980 at a sandwich shop. A second child reportedly was molested at the rectory after swimming, and a third was victimized on New Year's Eve 1979.

Approximately 30 Catholic clergy members from Arizona have been accused in court of sexual predation against children during the past decade.

After prosecutors threatened criminal indictments against diocese leaders for obstructing justice, Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien signed a settlement agreeing to reforms in the handling of sexual-misconduct charges. O'Brien has been replaced by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, who has vowed to work with prosecutors.

In response to the latest indictment, Sheehan said, "Our main concern is to extend our concerns and prayers to the victims and families of victims who may have been harmed. We will continue to cooperate fully with the County Attorney's Office."

Calls to the Salvatorian Order, based in Milwaukee, were not returned.

In other news related to the Diocese of Phoenix:

* An audit team of three former FBI agents arrived in the Valley on Monday to review compliance with the U.S. Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The team, which met Tuesday with Romley, will be in town through Friday.

Auditors declined to speak to the media but told diocesan spokeswoman Mary Jo West that a short version of their report will be sent to the diocese in about two weeks.

The complete report on Phoenix is expected to be released in November, after every U.S. diocese is audited.

Approximately 50 individual investigators are on the job. An audit team is scheduled to begin work in the Tucson Diocese next week.

* O'Brien, who resigned earlier this year after being indicted for leaving the scene of a fatal traffic accident, will be allowed to travel out of state as he awaits trial, according to court records.

O'Brien plans to attend a pretrial conference on Monday, then will leave the next day for San Diego for a monthlong vacation.

* The Rev. Paul LeBrun, one of six priests indicted for sexual abuse in June, was ordered to appear for a pretrial hearing Sept. 2. LeBrun, 47, faces nine counts of child molestation based on events that occurred at a West Valley parish from 1986 to 1991.


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