Priest Scandal - Diocese Officials Admit Abuse, Deny Reassignment

By Bill Dries
Commercial Appeal [Memphis, TN]
September 28, 2004

Attorneys for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis have acknowledged in writing that a former priest exposed himself to a teenage boy four years ago.

The admission comes in documents filed in Shelby County Circuit Court as part of a civil lawsuit claiming an unnamed teenager was sexually abused by former Dominican friar Juan Carlos Duran.

The lawsuit, which names the Catholic bishop for the Diocese of Memphis and the Dominican order in addition to Duran, also alleges church officials helped Duran leave the Memphis area to avoid scandal and liability.

The documents, called "interrogatories," were filed Sept. 2 and detail requests for information.

The plaintiff: "Admit that defendant Juan Carlos Duran sexually abused the plaintiff."

Defendant: "Admitted."

Attorneys for the diocese go on to say that during a church investigation of the charges in February 2000, Duran admitted exposing himself to the boy.

Meanwhile, in a letter read at Sunday masses in many Memphis parishes, diocesan officials vehemently denied Duran was assigned to St. Louis after serving in Memphis.

The chronology was attributed to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis when Duran was charged in a warrant last week with sodomizing a boy there sometime between 1996 and 2002.

The spokesman, Jim Orso, on Monday denied telling a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter that Duran served in Memphis before coming to St. Louis.

A written statement from Very Rev. Martin J. Gleeson, the prior provincial of the Southern Dominican Province in Metairie, La., provides the first details of Duran's movements as a priest since the lawsuit was filed.

"Duran was in St. Louis prior to, not after, his assignment in Memphis in June 1999," Gleeson wrote. "No reports or allegations of sexual abuse or other improper behavior were brought to our attention while Duran was in St. Louis or prior to his coming to Memphis. . . . He was never reassigned to St. Louis or any parish or other ministry after leaving Memphis."

As a result of the church investigation here, documents show Memphis Bishop J. Terry Steib banned Duran from saying mass in the diocese or "any public ministry as a priest."

At the direction of Dominican officials, Duran was then sent to an unnamed institution in Maryland "for psychological counseling," according to the church's response.

Attorneys for the Memphis Diocese also said that while the church sought a standard background check of Duran from the Dominican order, they did not get a criminal background check from a law enforcement agency.

Church officials believe Duran is living somewhere in Bolivia.



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