USA Today:-In May 2003, Thomas O’Brien, then bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, admitted to sheltering at least 50 priests accused of sexual abuse, often shuffling them around to parishes across the state.
O’Brien’s admission, released under an agreement with the county attorney, acknowledged he “allowed Roman Catholic priests under my supervision to work with minors after becoming aware of allegations of sexual misconduct.” He also waived his own immunity should sexual misconduct allegations against him surface.
Thirteen years later, in a lawsuit filed last September, O’Brien — now bishop emeritus — was accused of sexually abusing a grade-school boy.
In recent months, USA TODAY Network reporters at the Pacific Daily News have uncovered scores of allegations involving 14 Catholic priests on Guam, where a former altar boy’s accusation last summer that Archbishop Anthony Apuron sexually abused him in the 1970s has prompted other revelations.
Abuse cases also have roiled Catholic parishes elsewhere the nation, sometimes decades after evidence of the crimes first emerged.
n the O’Brien case, an Arizona man sued, claiming repressed memories resurfaced two years ago, according to court documents. The lawsuit accuses O’Brien, now 81, of sexual abuse from 1977 through 1982. O’Brien, who stepped aside as an active bishop in June 2003 after he was found guilty of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, denies the accusation.
The suit names 60 other Roman Catholic priests or church employees, dating back to the 1950s and alleges a cover-up.
The diocese itself eventually exposed some priests as part of an agreement with Arizona prosecutors in the early 2000s. At least two of the priests fled the U.S. and remain at large, and a substantial number are now dead.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is considering diocese attorneys’ motions to dismiss several of the lawsuit’s 14 claims.
The 2003 agreement in O’Brien’s case brought major changes within the Catholic Church in the Phoenix area, including victim assistance and training on sexual misconduct for all diocesan staff and volunteers.