The Catholic Diocese of Tucson has identified 15 priests accused of sexual abuse of children and has taken steps to redress the grievances of victims.
In a letter to parishioners issued June 21, the Most Rev. Manuel D. Moreno, Bishop of Tucson, and Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, Coadjutor Bishop of Tucson, who will replace Moreno upon his retirement, said they would implement the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. That charter was approved by U.S. bishops during a meeting in Dallas earlier in June.
In addition to releasing the names of priests against whom allegations of child abuse have been made, the bishops created a victim's assistance procedure offering counseling resources at no expense to anyone who has experienced abuse by any employee or volunteer of the diocese.
According to the bishops, most of the allegations against the 15 priests are more than 20 years old. The oldest act of alleged abuse dated to the late 1950s, and the most recent act occurred in 1999. The 15 priests represent 1.25 percent of the estimated 1,200 priests who have served in the Diocese of Tucson since the late 1950s.
All of the priests' names were provided to civil authorities, and the diocese promised to make known to civil authorities any allegation of child abuse made against any employee or volunteer of the Church, including priests and deacons.
The bishops urged anyone who has experienced sexual abuse as a child from a priest, deacon, employee or volunteer to report the abuse to local authorities. Anyone who has been abused may call Catholic Community Services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 623-0344 or 1-800-234-0344.
The priests named included five who are dead, nine (four of whom are retired) who are living and have been suspended from ministry and not allowed to celebrate Mass publicly, wear clerical garb, or to present themselves publicly as priests; and one who is believed to have left the priesthood.
Not all of the allegations against the priests named involved criminal conduct which resulted in prosecution. Some allegations involved misconduct with a minor that, while not prosecuted as child abuse, "was not in keeping with the call of a priest to be a person of trust," the diocese said.
"These have been painful times for all of us," the bishops said in their letter. "We pray that the Lord will draw some good from this. We believe the Lord is calling all in the Church to turn again to Him. People want and expect holy priests who live what they preach. The great majority of our priests are doing just that. People also want and expect bishops who are true shepherds, who give proper oversight to the protection of children and young people. We look to the Lord to guide us." --Tucson Weekly