Phoenix diocese releases list of clergy involved in abuse cases

The Arizona Republic/October 16, 2012

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix on Tuesday released a list of 29 clergy members accused or convicted of abusing children, becoming one of fewer than 30 dioceses in the United States to have published a list of child-abusing priests.

While considered a significant step in transparency related to the scandal that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago, clergy-abuse experts say the list is far from a comprehensive report on abusive priests in the Valley.

"It's hopeful for me that the bishop (Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted) is doing what is right," said Phoenix attorney Robert Pastor, who is representing several clergy-abuse clients. But he said he is aware of priests who have not been accused publicly and do not appear on the list.

The Phoenix Diocese's list comes a few months after the 10th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, the church's landmark document to address the sexual-abuse scandal and protect children from abusive priests and deacons. The charter, known formally as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, was approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 after the scandal ignited nationwide.

The list includes 29 priests who have been suspended or defrocked for abuse of children since the diocese's founding in 1969. It includes only one priest not previously made public and does not include priests who were deceased when accusations were leveled against them.

Among those in the latter category is former Bishop James Rausch, who died in 1981. Rausch, according to files in the Boston Archdiocese cases that launched the scandal, was known to visit Tucson to find victims.

The diocese report also fails to list several men who have been accused of abuse in civil or criminal cases. The report does not disclose how many children were abused by each priest, how much the diocese spent compensating victims, or what legal charges, if any, the individual priests faced.

"We provided the pertinent information on ordained clergy who abused minors," said Rob DeFrancesco, diocese spokesman. "A determination was made not to provide further information."

The diocese issued the report quietly on the child-protection section of its website. It did not inform the media or make officials available for interviews after its release.

Barbara Dorris, outreach coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she was disappointed by the scope of the release.

"We are grateful every time the public learns about more child-molesting clerics," she said. "(But) by waiting years and years to do it, he (Olmsted) has needlessly protected predators and endangered kids."

She said she regretted that photos and whereabouts weren't included and that deceased priests were left off the list.

A Republic list of those accused of sexual abuse includes 39 names -- 40 after the previously unknown priest, Harry Morgan, is added. It includes those who died prior to the accusations.

The Republic list was developed in the early 2000s when the diocese was under investigation for covering up abuse. It has been updated as court cases were filed and the diocese released additional names.

Of the 11 extra names on the Republic list, two were convicted of sexual crimes with adults, not minors. Two were religious-order priests whose omission from the list was unexplained. Several names were of priests who died before abuse accusations were made, leaving them unable to defend themselves. Two were priests from the Tucson Diocese and were listed as abusers there.

Two others, John Picardi and Saul Madrid, never were suspended or laicized, but both faced abuse allegations in civil or criminal courts. Picardi's status is unknown, but Madrid left the priesthood on his own.

Laicization refers to an official Vatican action to remove an individual from the priesthood.

Patrick Wall, a former priest and legal advocate for abuse victims, said the diocese should have released the priests' full files.

"These lists are usually the tip of the iceberg," said victims advocate Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach, Calif., who was molested by a priest as a teenager. She said numbers fail to tell the full story, such as how some priests were allowed to abuse youths over and over again at different parishes.

The diocese published four lists on its website:

The first, List of Diocese of Phoenix Priests and Deacons who have been laicized and/or removed from the ministry due to sexual misconduct with a minor, contains 15 names.

The second list, which includes those accused of sexual misconduct and have a case pending, has just one name.

The third list shows priests from religious orders, such as Jesuit or Franciscan. The list includes 10 names.

The fourth list includes priests from other dioceses who worked for a period in the Phoenix Diocese. It has three names.

Child-abuse accusations against priests in the Phoenix Diocese have slowed, with only one lawsuit pending in Maricopa County Superior Court. No abuse allegations have been reported by the diocese in years.

The report did not detail costs, as diocese officials promised last year, but it did include a four-page attachment promoting the diocese's efforts to protect children.

"There is no plan to publish separate financials for this particular report," DeFrancesco said.

The diocese reported expenditures in 2004 of $2.7 million.

An accounting of costs would include legal settlements and fees, counseling for victims, and therapy and living expenses for accused priests. It also would include $400,000 paid to Maricopa County in 2003 in connection with former Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien's immunity agreement.

Nationally, Catholic dioceses are estimated to have spent more than $2 billion to resolve abuse cases.

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