Six More Criticize Priest's Conduct
"The girls came forward after meetings were held," said Tom Chapman, a spokesman for the Des Moines Catholic Diocese.
He said the meetings included students and school and parish officials.
Originally, four girls made allegations, resulting in the suspension of the Rev. Tan Tran, 37. The girls made their allegations as they were learning about sexual harassment in a class at the school.
"Sexual harassment was being explained and discussed in class and the girls said at that time they felt something had happened," said Chapman. "It was part of a state-approved curriculum on sexual harassment."
Sources said Thursday the girls are eighth-graders at St Theresa's, and the alleged misconduct took place during church confirmation classes. Chapman refused to comment on the information.
Diocese officials say the allegations do not involve sexual acts or remarks. The students said they felt Tran engaged in "unnecessary patting and hugging."
Tran, a native of Vietnam who came to the United States five years ago, was suspended with pay pending a psychological evaluation. Chapman said diocese policy requires a suspension and evaluation when an accusation is made.
Monsignor Lawrence Beeson, the Des Moines diocese's vicar general, called Tran a "beloved" member of the city's Vietnamese community. However, he refused to discuss the merits of the allegations.
"Staying With Friends"
"Father Tran is away now, staying with friends until an evaluation can be arranged," said Beeson. "There are places around the country where this sort of evaluation is done, but it takes some time to arrange for that, to get it scheduled."
Beeson said he has known Tran since he came to the United States from a refugee camp.
"He is part of the community of Vietnamese who came to the United States and many came to Des Moines," Beeson said. "He was in a refugee camp and did part of his studying for the priesthood while in in the camp."
Beeson said the evaluation of Tran will be "cross-cultural" and will consider what is acceptable in Vietnam and what is considered appropriate behavior in the United States.
"We have received a number of phone calls on both sides of the issue about this," said Beeson. "There are some people who think this policy is correct. There are some people who think it is too harsh."
"When you consider a beloved member of the community like this, there will be strong reactions. There is pain and hurting for everyone involved."
The allegations against Tran were made public Wednesday night when the diocese sent a press release to news organizations. It is an act of openness on the part of the church that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
"It's new," said Beeson. "Dealing with this kind of thing
out in the open is what we're called to do today. Each diocese has developed
ways of dealing with difficult problems and the trend is for more openness."
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