Ex-Tosa Priest under House Arrest in Italy
He Is Wanted in Arizona to Face Molestation Charges
By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
July 20, 2005
Father Joseph Henn, a religious order priest who served at a Wauwatosa parish in the 1980s, was under house arrest Tuesday in Italy at the Salvatorian headquarters near St. Peter's Square for child molestation charges filed in Arizona two years ago.
Italian police reportedly took that action Saturday because Henn, who was living in Italy at the headquarters before he was indicted, had refused to cooperate with extradition.
Henn was one of seven priests from religious orders who The Dallas Morning News found living in Rome last year despite pending claims or charges that they had sexually abused minors in other countries.
Earlier this year, shortly before the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, victims advocate Barbara Blaine of Chicago went to the Salvatorian headquarters in Rome to urge that Henn's superiors send him back to face the charges. She submitted a letter at the door.
"It is the position of the United States province of the Salvatorians, as well as the position of the mother house community in Rome, that Father Henn return and face the charges leveled against him," said Father John Gorman, director of personnel at the order's U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee.
"And that has been our consistent position since these charges surfaced," he said. "Under canon law, the law of the church, we cannot force him to come home, although we have strongly recommended that he do so. Father Henn has attorneys in Rome and doctors who have advised him not to."
Henn served part time at St. Pius X Parish in Wauwatosa from December 1986 to May 1987, Gorman said. He then served there as associate pastor from June 1987 to July 1989, when he was moved.
Asked where Henn went next, and if he had other assignments in Wisconsin, Gorman said he could not comment further because of the pending charges. He did say that Henn "had several assignments in the West."
Gorman confirmed that Italian police placed Henn under house arrest over the weekend. Henn has been doing secretarial work for the general superiors of the Salvatorians, whose formal name is the Society of the Divine Savior, Gorman said.
Catholic News Service reported that Henn was arrested after a request by the U.S. Justice Department that he be extradited to face molestation charges in Phoenix. His Italian lawyer, Michele Gentiloni, told the news service that Henn had been living in the headquarters for seven or eight years and that he was arrested because he had refused to cooperate with the extradition request.
Gentiloni said that Henn denies the charges against him but fears for his physical safety if he is extradited for trial in the U.S.
Once documents detailing the charges arrive, a hearing will be held to determine if those charges are prosecutable as crimes under Italian law and under Italian statues of limitation, and if U.S.-Italian extradition treaties would apply to those crimes, the lawyer told Catholic News Service.
Henn, who had worked in the Diocese of Phoenix, was indicted in Arizona's Maricopa County in July 2003 for allegedly molesting three boys in 1979 and 1980. At the time, they were younger than 15, according to The Arizona Republic.
He was charged with nine counts of child molestation, one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor, one count of attempted child molestation, and one count of sexual conduct with a minor.
Gorman confirmed that Henn, who is in his mid-50s, served in the military in Vietnam before joining the religious order and had been exposed there to Agent Orange, the powerful defoliant U.S. forces used in that war. But doctors' concerns about extradition do not relate to that, Gorman added.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.