Bishop Thomas O'Brien's resignation brought widespread relief Wednesday to people who say they were victims of sexual misconduct by priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
"I think it gives a glimmer of hope for the church and the diocese," said Ben Kulina, a Mesa police lieutenant who was sexually assaulted by the Rev. John Giandelone while Giandelone was a priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Phoenix more than 20 years ago. "This is like a new day. The church has a chance now to start healing and not another cover-up."
Giandelone was sentenced to one year in jail and 22 months in prison in two separate criminal cases involving Kulina and Henry Takata, who was abused after Giandelone was transferred to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Chandler.
An unprecedented agreement announced June 2 between O'Brien and Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley seemed like a positive step, victims said. In the agreement, O'Brien admitted to allowing priests he knew were accused of sexual misconduct to work with children. But O'Brien later declared he had committed no crime, and victims said their hopes for change were dashed.
Two weeks later, images of O'Brien being escorted to jail after his arrest on suspicion of leaving the scene of a fatal traffic accident sealed his fate.
Paul Pfaffenberger, leader of the Phoenix chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said victims have long wanted the resignation of O'Brien and a reorganization of leadership at the Phoenix diocese. "There's been a cult of secrecy in the church," he said, adding there is little comfort because a man died.
"For his own sake, he needed to resign, and for everyone else's," added Herminia Nicolaus, who has told investigators that she and another relative were sexually assaulted by the Rev. Joseph Briceno when he was a priest at St. Mary's. "I just wish (the resignation) wasn't because someone died."
Last month, Briceno was indicted based on the Nicolaus family's allegations. He remains a fugitive.
Mark Kennedy, a Chandler resident who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the Rev. Patrick Colleary, a former Valley priest indicted and being sought overseas, said Reed did not die in vain.
"The first signs of good from it are in the resignation of Bishop O'Brien. That is a blessing to all victims."