Bishop of Tucson Diocese resigns

Criticized over response to allegations

Boston Globe/March 8, 2003
By Michael Rezendes

After struggling for more than a year to contend with the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Bishop Manuel D. Moreno yesterday announced his resignation at a noontime Mass where he apologized to victims of priest abuse.

Moreno is the sixth American bishop to resign amid the clergy abuse scandal since it erupted last January.

Church officials said yesterday that the 72-year-old Moreno resigned for health reasons, leaving his post three years before the Church's mandatory retirement age. He is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease and is being treated for prostate cancer.

Moreno has also been the focus of criticism since early last year, when the Tucson diocese settled 11 clergy sexual abuse lawsuits against Monsignor Robert C. Trupia and three other priests for an estimated $14 million.

In his homily at Mass yesterday, Moreno spoke of his remorse. ''For the mistakes I have made, I am sincerely sorry. To those whom my actions or inactions have injured, I reiterate my contrition.'' The Globe, citing sealed court documents and internal church records, reported last August that Moreno tried to place Trupia on administrative leave in 1992, after learning of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him, but was thwarted after Trupia launched a successful appeal to the Vatican. Moreno's critics have said the diocese acted too late in attempting to remove Trupia from active ministry.

Today, Trupia is living in Maryland, where he continues to receive a monthly church stipend and insurance benefits from the church.

The Trupia case remains controversial, in part because the records reviewed by the Globe show that Trupia won his appeal on a decision by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy and a key figure in Vatican revisions to a new policy for managing claims of clergy sexual abuse in the United States that went into effect March 1.

Castrillon Hoyos sided with Trupia even through Moreno reported that Trupia had attempted to intimidate him into revoking his suspension and an order that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation by threatening to reveal what he knew about a high-ranking Phoenix bishop's sex life.

The documents reviewed by the Globe, which remain sealed at the request of the church, allege that the late Bishop James S. Rausch, then the general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, initiated numerous sexual encounters with a 17-year-old runaway and drug user, Brian F. O'Connor, and then passed O'Connor on to Trupia and another priest, each of whom had sex with the youth.

O'Connor, who said he was later given a job at the Tucson chancery to ensure his silence, said yesterday that he bears Moreno no ill-will. ''He did everything he could to get rid of Trupia 13 years ago and Rome just sort of stomped him,'' O'Connor said. ''I think he made mistakes but had good intentions.''

Others, however, said Moreno's inability to suspend Trupia is a cautionary tale for sexual abuse victims holding out hope that the new church procedures will lead to swift action against offending priests.

''One only has to look at this Tucson case to see that the church process is very secretive and very skewed in the direction of the accused,'' said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those abused by priests.

''After 14 months of horrific scandal, most Catholics want to believe that replacing one bishop with another will improve the situation but that's a naive view,'' Clohessy added. ''The problem of clergy sexual abuse is much more deeply rooted in church culture and the church hierarchy. Common sense dictates that we withhold judgment until we see real improvement.''

Lynne M. Cadigan, an attorney for clergy abuse victims who received the $14 million settlement, praised Moreno and his successor, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas for drawing up new policies for preventing clergy sexual abuse.

Cadigan also criticized the refusal by the Tucson Diocese to allow court records to be publicly released, despite a pledge by American bishops to initiate a new era of openness on the subject.

''They don't want their parishioners to know the depth of the scandal. That's the only conclusion one can draw,'' Cadigan said. ''They seem to be more willing to release the names of perpetrators but they will not share information about concealment and coverup by the diocese.''

Fred Allison, spokesman for the Tucson Diocese, detailed the health problems Moreno faced, but also said the clergy abuse scandal was a factor in his decision to retire early.

''There is no doubt in the hearts and minds of many of us who work closely with him that the wear and tear since 1997 when the first lawsuit was filed had an impact on his retirement,'' he said.

Kicanas was named coadjutor of the diocese after the lawsuits were filed against Trupia and three other priests.

In a joint statement earlier this year, Moreno and Kicanas said costs associated with the clergy abuse scandal had exacerbated a fiscal crisis in the diocese. Kicanas also said the diocese was considering filing for bankruptcy.

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