FORT WORTH, Texas — Leaders in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocesewere not forthcoming about the extent of sexual abuse allegationsagainst half a dozen priests and helped them stay in the ministry,according to 700 pages of secret files released Nov. 28 by a judge.
The files involve clergymen accused of misconduct with minors. Theyshow how Bishop Joseph P. Delaney, who died last year, and his topassistants — the Rev. Robert Wilson and the Rev. Joseph Schumacher —dealt with accusers and the priests.
Documents show that diocese leaders and other church officialscounted the days until the risk of civil liability had passed indealing with one accuser; allowed one priest who admitted abusing achild to keep working until his death; and withheld details aboutaccusations to minimize public fallout.
In that 1995 case, a priest admitted to Delaney that he had abusedthree boys, but Delaney initially publicly spoke of just one victim, inpart to control “how the matter is aired.”
“Because the facts made public are so few, I hope that the publicity will quickly die down,” he wrote.
State District Judge Len Wade released parts of the files afterdiocese attorneys tried for about a year to keep them closed, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News reported in their online editions on Nov. 28.
The newspapers and several of the priests’ accusers asked Wade torelease the secret files — notes, memos and e-mails created andmaintained by diocese leaders.
The documents detail allegations against six clergymen: WilliamHoover, John Howlett, James Reilly, Philip Magaldi, Rudolph Renteríaand John Hanlon. Hoover, Hanlon and Reilly are dead.
Files for the Rev. Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen, a Dominican order priest, remain sealed because he has appealed their release.
Tu remained in active ministry in the Houston area after allegationsfirst surfaced against him in the 1990s, but stepped down when newclaims against him surfaced earlier this year. Tu has denied wrongdoing.
Last week, the diocese settled a lawsuit with 11 men who said they had been abused by Reilly.
Delaney’s successor, Bishop Kevin Vann, has said he hopes therecords release “will mark the beginning of a new era for the Dioceseof Fort Worth and for our larger community.”
“It is extremely distressing and painful to have read these files,”Vann said this summer. “I find it all the more painful because I grewup surrounded by great examples of what the priesthood should be.”
The court-ordered release of the files is one of the few cases inthe nation in which so much information has been released to the publicat once.
The files were deemed part of the public record as the diocese wasdefending itself against a sexual abuse lawsuit against another priest,the Rev. Thomas Teczar, settled last year for $4.15 million.
In August, the diocese said it would not appeal Wade’s ruling to open the documents.
Howlett is believed to be living with his religious order in Ireland.
Magaldi’s spokesman, Jerry Koller, said the priest is innocent anddeclined to make him available for comment, saying he is in poor health.
Rentería, who owns a house in Dallas, did not respond to a telephone message.
Vann said yesterday that he is seeking to have Magaldi and Rentería defrocked, the Star-Telegram reported today.