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  Home :: 2006 December :: Unlocking the secrets of the Fort Worth Diocese

Files detail allegations against priests, reveal deception by leaders


These articles contain sexually explicit language that may be offensive to some readers.

FORT WORTH — In public, Fort Worth Bishop Joseph P. Delaney and histrusted subordinates often spoke of the importance of being honest andopen about allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

But the moral and spiritual leaders of the Fort Worth Roman CatholicDiocese buried key facts about six men accused of molesting children intheir secret archive, known as the confidential files.

On Tuesday, a state district judge released about 700 pages ofdocuments relating to six priests accused of sexually abusing minors,including files pertaining to Magaldi and Renteria. Vann apologized toanyone who has been abused by a priest.

"I deeply regret the damage and struggles that endure to this daybecause of the abuse of any victim at the hands of a priest," he said.

The files, which were sealed as part of a sexual abuse lawsuitagainst the diocese, reveal that Delaney and other church leaderssometimes intentionally misled the public, their congregations and thepriests' accusers.

In the documents, those leaders describe how they hid payments toone victim while counting the days until the civil statute oflimitations had expired and how they moved accused priests to otherparishes.

The secret files' notes, memorandums and e-mails detail how the fear of bad publicity often influenced diocese leaders' actions.

The files also show how Delaney, who died last year, often wrestledwith the best way to handle accusations against men he trusted.

Mark Hatten, an attorney who represents the diocese, said the filesare a window to a different time, before the diocese implemented strictstandards for dealing with accused clerics.

"Overall, the diocese took swift action ... once abuse was reported," Hatten said.

He added that Bishop Kevin Vann, who became leader of the diocese last year, "is embracing cleaning all of this up."

The clerics worked across the diocese, including Bedford, Arlington and downtown Fort Worth.

They led country parishes and urban congregations. And they wereaccused of the worst debauchery -- groping and raping children andteens and even asking for bizarre favors -- not far from the altar orin their rectories. Youths were often sent to the priests by trustingparents.

The Star-Telegram, The Dallas Morning News and several people who say they were the priests' victims asked Wade to release the files.

The court redacted parts of the documents to remove information thatwould identify accusers and reveal personal information about theaccused priests.

Vann was not available for comment Tuesday. At an August newsconference, he said the church could have "acted more promptly,forthrightly and with greater compassion to those who came forward withallegations."

The files show that Delaney, the Rev. Robert Wilson and other churchleaders allowed accused priests to stay in ministry, sometimes movingthem to other congregations.

The Rev. Joseph Schumacher, who also handled some cases, said in aninterview Tuesday that he remembered few of the people he dealt withand that Delaney took the lead in handling most allegations.

"Bishop Delaney was a good listener," Schumacher said.

He disagreed with Vann's statement that the diocese could have beenmore compassionate. He noted that the diocese always offered peoplecounseling and paid for it.

Wilson couldn't be reached for comment.

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.

"I hope what this does is that this alerts other judges to thedimensions of this problem and how it's being handled by the church,all over the place," said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk whohas served as an expert witness in clergy abuse cases.

A pattern of cover-ups

In one 1995 case, a priest admitted to Delaney that he had abusedthree boys, but initially Delaney only publicly spoke of one victim and"an incident."

Ultimately, the diocese would learn of at least nine accusations against the priest.

In another case, the diocese and one church secretly gave money toan accuser -- even paying for her child care -- with the notation"social outreach" on some checks.

"I am requisitioning $600 which will be sent you directly by ourfinance office," Wilson wrote in one of several letters to a priest whohelped him arrange payments to the woman. "They will not be noting whatit is for, but from this letter you will be aware that it is toreimburse the Pallottine Fathers for one half the $1,200 sent to" theaccuser.

Even as two allegations were made against another priest -- andDelaney saw firsthand a "very inappropriate gesture" by the clergymanwith altar boys -- Delaney considered restoring him to limited dutiesmore than a year later. When renewed publicity cooled him on the idea,Delaney promised to discuss granting him duties later.

There is no record in the released documents of diocese officials'having called the police. But church leaders in some cases notified thediocese insurance company about allegations.

Hatten said that the diocese conformed with the law in place at thetimes that accusers came forward. Some of their allegations dated backdecades.

In one case, Wilson wrote of his relief that the risk of facing a lawsuit from one accuser had passed.

The newly released files detail allegations against six clergymen:the Revs. William Hoover, John Howlett, James Reilly, Philip Magaldi,Rudolf Rentería and James Hanlon. Hoover, Hanlon and Reilly are dead.

Many of the priests have denied abusing anyone. Hoover publicly admitted to sexual misconduct with one boy.

The priests still living and their attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Files for the Rev. Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen, a Dominican order priest,remain sealed because his attorney appealed their release. Some ofthose files were inadvertently released Tuesday.

Tu has been accused of sexual misconduct with women and girls. Hisattorney has disputed some of the allegations. Tu remained in activeministry in Houston after allegations surfaced against him in the1990s, but he was suspended when an allegation involving a minor wasmade this year.

Records about another accused priest, the Rev. Thomas Teczar, werealready public because of a lawsuit. The records don't includeinformation about at least one other area priest recently accused ofmisconduct.

Tahira Khan Merritt, who has represented more than a dozen people insuits and other legal action against the diocese, said the files show apattern and practice consistent with the national church.

Fort Worth officials ignored "the needs of victims, placing priestsover the safety of children, and failing to report [allegations] to thecivil authorities," Merritt said.

Light penalties, delayed efforts

The files show that since 2002, when American bishops agreed toremove from ministry priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, thediocese has responded aggressively. But the diocese announced in Augustthat one priest, Magaldi, was still performing some priestly duties atthe nursing home where he lived. Vann forbade him Aug. 10 frompresenting himself as a priest.

Notes by Delaney, Wilson and Schumacher also show that:

The diocese offered counseling to accusers. But they sometimescomplained of insensitive and hostile treatment by the diocesecommittee that investigated sex abuse complaints.

Even when a priest was deemed to have acted improperly, the penaltywas often light: supervision by another priest or reassignment.

Leaders delayed for years any efforts encouraging other people atlocal churches to come forward -- a decision that accusers say likelyallowed others to suffer in uncertainty for decades.

"It's a shame that it took years of legal pressure to [force] FortWorth church officials to do what's right and what they should havedone years ago," Mary Grant, western regional director of SurvivorsNetwork of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement.

"Bishop Vann's next steps are clear," she said. "He must personallyvisit each of the parishes where these men worked and beg any victimsor witnesses to contact law enforcement."

The files were part of the evidence in the lawsuit involving Teczar and had been sealed at the diocese's request.

Delaney hired Teczar after the priest admitted having been sexuallyattracted to adolescents, according to previously released documents.Teczar was accused in the lawsuit of abusing two men in Ranger, a smalltown east of Abilene, in the 1990s, when they were minors. The diocesesettled the lawsuit last year for $4.15 million.

The diocese admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, and Teczar hassaid he did not abuse the men. Teczar faces criminal charges inEastland County related to that case.

Last week, the diocese settled a lawsuit with 11 men who said Reilly abused them when they were as young as 8.

Wilson and Schumacher stepped down in July after about two decadesof service to Delaney. Vann has said their removal was planned sincehis arrival last year and had nothing to do with the potential releaseof the files.

In a March interview, Vann said both men would continue to work attheir churches in Arlington and Aledo. But Schumacher has retired andis no longer pastor at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Arlington.

Wilson is still leading Holy Redeemer Church in Aledo, according tothe church's Web site. Wilson did not respond to a message left on hiscellphone.

    • Unlocking the secrets of the Fort Wor...
My mom was fired by the catholic church, they replaced her with anillegal alien that would clean the church at a cheaper rate. Its greatthat they "help people" by refusing to give an amercian citizen thegoing rate. WHY do you think 100% of the fairs they put on are inhispanic churches. Its a way to pay them under the table. I am a blackamerican who is catholic...discrimination of blacks in the south by thecatholic church is everywhere. Look at their outreach programs.

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look in the business pages under "catholic charities" and you will seea subsection immigration. They help illegals to get papers but in themean time...they are like um can you clean our toilets. The church ishelping to keep wages low for sanitation workers.

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Wetoo are parishoners at Holy Redeemer in Aledo where Father Bob is ourpriest. We were completely unaware of his participation in thiscover-up and are shocked to say the least. We have 3 young childrenthat attend the parish regularly with us (go to CED, Mass, etc.) and westrongly feel as though we can no longer trust Father Bob. We will beswitching to another parish immediately unless Father Bob isimmediately replaced or resigns.

Shame on you Father Bob, you put the church above it's parishoners.

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Shame on all of you that are quick to judge based on a newspaperarticle. Yes the documents that were released tell a tale that on theirown are quite negative - but we must remember that there are two sidesto every story. Hind sight is 20/20. Let's all pray for healing!

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Father Bob is a kind person. I want to hear the other side of thestory. The meida is biased and relies in sensationalism to sell papers.I will continue to be a member of Holy Redeemer in Aledo and willsupport Father Bob until there is unbiased information and proof ofwrong doing on his part.

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia