Diocese Asks Parishioners to Come Forward If Abused

By Eileen E. Flynn
Austin American-Statesman (Texas)
November 26, 2003

The Catholic Diocese of Austin on Tuesday asked that people come forward if they were abused by a former priest or a former lay youth minister, who a Houston lawyer claims molested him in the 1970s.

The diocese settled with the man for $250,000, the first such settlement since the diocese was established in 1947.

Robert Scamardo, who until recently represented the Diocese of Galveston-Houston in sex abuse cases, revealed to Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond that former priest Dan Delaney molested him in a hotel room during a Catholic Youth Organization trip.

Delaney served as a diocesan chaplain for the youth group. Scamardo also named former lay youth minister and seminarian James Reese as an abuser.

The diocese settled with Scamardo for $250,000 on Oct. 29, first reported in a New York Times story published Tuesday.

Scamardo did not return messages Tuesday. Aymond was in Guatemala and unreachable.

"We have not heard (from other victims)," diocese spokeswoman Helen Osman said. "But if there is somebody who has concerns or information they feel we should know about, then they need to contact Bishop Aymond as soon as possible."

Osman said people can call the diocese's main number, 476-4888.

Delaney couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. He told The New York Times that he "vaguely" remembered Scamardo and declined to comment further. Reese told the newspaper that he had had a relationship with Scamardo but that it wasn't "the way he says."

Since the clergy abuse scandal became a national crisis for the church in January 2002, the Austin Diocese has learned of a handful of priests accused of molesting children.

The Rev. Daniel Drinan, former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Martindale, was the only priest serving in the diocese at the time of an allegation.

One has died, and two others, including Delaney, have since left the diocese. Osman said she was not aware of other abuse cases and said none of those accusations led to settlements.

Delaney was laicized, or formally removed from his priestly role, in 1987 for "behavior problems," she said. She said the diocese was not aware of any sexual abuse allegations involving Delaney until Scamardo came forward.

Reese, who worked for a time as a lay youth minister at Sacred Heart Church in North Austin, entered the seminary in 2002. After learning of the allegations, Aymond removed Reese from the seminary, and he has no role in the diocese now, Osman said.

The diocese plans to release a report in January that details "credible allegations" of abusive priests and where they are now. The report, which will be sent to every registered Catholic household in the 25-county diocese, will also include the diocese's policies on sexual abuse and information on what people should do if they suspect abuse.

Osman said the diocese is self-insured and used money from investment returns to cover the settlement.

She acknowledged that Aymond, while negotiating the terms of the settlement, stated in a letter that Scamardo's initial request of $437,500 was unreasonable and would take from the Sunday collection plate. But she stressed that parishioners' contributions would not be touched.

"(Aymond's) intent was not to say this money is coming from collections but to say, 'I've got to weigh other resources,' " Osman said.

In addition to the settlement, Osman said, the diocese paid more than $33,000 for Scamardo to attend a treatment center and will continue to cover counseling for him and his family.

Last year, the diocese created a new position --- the pastoral care coordinator -- to handle complaints and provide access to counseling for people claiming to be abused by church personnel.

The diocese also adopted a new ethics policy just before the national scandal broke. Past mistakes provide good lessons for how the diocese needs to protect its children and teens today, said Matthew Robaszkiewicz, director of the diocese's youth and young adult ministry office.

"Certainly, things have progressed and changed a lot in the past few years," he said. "I think we as a church are much more cognizant of the realities that are out there and the precautions we have to take."


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