Diocese, Sacred Heart asking for information about former principal

The Daily Courier, Arizona/February 4, 2009

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is asking that anyone with information about alleged sexual abuse or any other possible improprieties of former Sacred Heart Catholic School principal Richard Suttle contact local law enforcement officials.

Diocese spokesman Jim Dwyer told The Daily Courier Wednesday that accusations of sexual abuse of a minor surfaced against Suttle in the fall of 2008 when the Claretian Missionaries - the religious order to which Suttle belongs - contacted them.

The abuse was alleged to have taken place during the 1982-83 school year while Suttle was a teacher and coach at Sacred Heart in Prescott.

Claretian officials told the Diocese that their review board had found the accusations "credible" - which they said does not imply either guilt or innocence, but rather means that the accusations are possible.

The Diocese then conducted its own investigation into the charges and forwarded its finding to the Claretians for their review and disposition, Diocese officials said in their December newsletter.

The newsletter said that officials from the Claretian order then informed them that Suttle no longer lives in Arizona and that the order will not assign him to the Phoenix Diocese at any time in the future.

"(His) religious order has removed him from any ministry involving minors and has placed him on a plan that restricts and monitors his movements," the newsletter stated.

Asked if Diocese officials told police about the alleged abuse, Dwyer said, "We've reported it to the authorities."

He declined to provide further details, saying to do so might create a "chilling effect on other people coming forward."

He said because the victim is now an adult, religious officials don't have to report the accusations to police.

"We tend to informally talk to authorities and ask them what they suggest (we do)," Dwyer said.

However, if the accusations involve a current minor, he said, "then we have to call the police."

Dwyer said many abuse victims do not want publicity; they just want the church to get the abuser out of the ministry.

The Yavapai County Attorney's Office says it knows nothing about Suttle and recommended anyone with information about child sexual abuse report it to the police department in the jurisdiction in which the incident happened.

Dwyer said Sacred Heart officials announced the information about Suttle to their parishioners during at least one worship service prior to Diocese officials printing the information in their newsletter.

Sacred Heart officials referred all questions to Dwyer but did say, "(We) are continuing to seek information about Brother Richard Suttle or about any incidents of sexual misconduct or abuse by any member of the clergy or of the church."

Dwyer said the Diocese doesn't know of any other allegations of improprieties against Suttle.

Suttle also spent 10 years from 1988 to 1998 at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix, the Diocese said.

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