Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said Friday that church officials know of 73 victims of sexual abuse at the hands of 19 priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix dating back decades, a trend borne out in a study that found thousands of such claims nationally since 1950.
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The comprehensive national clergy abuse report released Friday by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York was conducted for the National Review Board, a church watchdog panel made up of nonclergy members. The first sanctioned tally found 10,667 abuse claims of minors since 1950 by 4,392 priests, or 4 percent of all men wearing the collar.
"This report is both startling and humbling, but it is a study that needed to be done," Olmsted said Friday in Phoenix.
He called the results, "one more stage in a whole process of purification, conversion and renewal."
Olmsted said the Catholic Church feels "humiliation in the public disclosure of our sinfulness and remorse for what we have done."
He noted that the financial costs for settlements to victims and counseling are about $2.7 million in the diocese.
Victim advocates also praised the report, but said they believe the Phoenix dioce se’s numbers are under-reported.
"I know of 120 myself that I have listened to tell their stories and are afraid and ashamed to (come forward) and their perpetrators are still in the clergy and are still here," said Doris Kennedy of Chandler. She is the mother of Mark Kennedy, who claimed he was abused when he was 10 in 1978 by the Rev. Patrick Colleary, a former Tempe and Scottsdale priest.
Colleary was indicted last May on three counts of sexual conduct with a different boy, but he has fought extradition from Ireland to Arizona. Mark Kennedy, whose claims lost legal status because of statutes of limitations, estimated he has talked to more than 100 "closet victims who do not want to come forward to the church or the police, but they do want support."
"There are a lot of people who have not come forward," said Paul Pfaffenberger of Gilbert, president of the Valley chapter of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests. "I have spoken to well over 100 people in the last two years who were abused by priests and who are living in Phoenix."
Some were abused in other dioceses, he said.
"It’s a good step that the church has published this information, but I think the church’s hope is that this puts the issue behind them, yet I think the issue is very much in front of all of us," said Pfaffenberger, who is calling on the diocese to do aggressive outreach to parishes where abusing priests worked and identify victims and provide them with counseling.
In the summer of 2002, with increasingly more abuse cases bubbling to the surface, Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley launched a yearlong investigation of parish and diocesan records, police reports and complaints by victims that eventually led to indictments against eight current or former priests.
Under an agreement for his cooperation, then-leader Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien was granted immunity from potential obstruction of justice charges. The diocese, in turn, agreed to create a youth protection advocate office and put in safeguards beyond those in a sexual abuse policy first developed in 1990 and toughened several times.
Olmsted on Friday released the names of the 12 diocesan priests and seven religious order priests who had been accused. Among them was James Rausch, who preceded O’Brien as bishop and died in 1981. He said the diocese had "responded decisively" with controls put in place, including background checks on all employees, a review board to investigate complaints, closer cooperation with law enforcement and creation of the office of youth protection advocate.
The bishop announced a statewide conference on sexual abuse on May 20.
Participating in the event will be representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which reported 26 priests accused of molesting 96 minors since 1950.
The northeast quarter of Arizona is part of the Diocese of Gallup, N.M., which had 11 known victims and eight identified abusing priests.
Mark Kennedy urged Olmsted to clean out the chancery of church officials who held key roles during the years of sexual misconduct.
"The same people who have covered up for 30 years are the ones who are providing the information for this report," he said. "They are not going to do a 180-degree turn immediately and share everything they know."
Local priests accused
Phoenix Diocesen priests accused: George Bredemann; Joseph Briceno; Patrick Colleary; John Doran; Laurence Flores; John Giandelone; Harold Graf; Mark Lehman; Joseph Lessard; James Rausch; Lan Sherwood; John Sullivan
Religious Orders priests accused in Phoenix diocese: Joseph Henn; Sung Lam; Paul Lebraun; Karl LeClair; Lawrence Lovell; Jorge Ortiz Lopez; Henry Perez