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The sexual abuse scandal in Phoenix diocese is a significant episode in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States and Ireland

Grand jury investigation

In 2002, Maricopa County attorney Rick Romley, launched a grand jury investigation into cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests and a cover-up of those crimes by Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.[1] The investigation resulted in evidence of priestly abuse, including a 1979 case in which Bishop O'Brien learned of accusations that a priest had molested a 10-year-old boy and later transferred the same priest to another parish, where his abusive behavior continued.[1]

Plea agreement

On June 2, 2003, O'Brien and Romley reached a plea agreement, with the Bishop avoiding possible criminal charges in exchange for admitting that he "allowed priests under his supervision to have contact with minors after becoming aware of allegations of criminal sexual misconduct" and acknowledging "transferring offending priests to situations where children could be further victimized."[2]

Diminished authority

The agreement vastly diminished O'Brien's authority in the diocese, forcing him to appoint a priest to oversee the Phoenix diocese's sexual abuse policies as well as an independent youth protection advocate to report allegations about priests without requiring the consent of any diocesan personnel.[1] O'Brien also agreed to create a church fund to pay for counseling and treatment of those sexually assaulted by priests during his tenure.[1]

Dale Fushek affair

In May 2002, pastor Dale Fushek disclosed to his congregation, that in 1995 the Diocese of Phoenix had settled a sexual harassment suit that had been filed against him by a former Life Teen staff member. In April 2004, the newly installed Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who replaced Bishop Thomas O'Brien after his conviction and resignation for a fatal hit-and-run accident [3] accepted Fushek's resignation from his position as Vicar General.

In late December 2004, additional complaints against Fushek emerged and the Diocese of Phoenix began to conduct an investigation. Fushek was placed on paid administrative leave shortly thereafter.

Paul LeBrun affair

Also in November 2005 Fr. Paul LeBrun was found guilty of six counts in the sexual abuse of boys when he was stationed in the West Valley.[4] [5]

Joseph Briceno affair

Fr. Joseph Briceno fled to Mexico and was later captured and charged with one count of sexual abuse, six counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor. [6] [7]

Mark Lehman affair

In December 2006 the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix agreed to pay $100,000 to William Cesolini who claimed he was sexually assaulted as a teenager by a priest, Mark Lehman, and a former teen minister, Phil Baniewicz, at a Mesa church. Monsignor Dale Fushek, who was pastor of that parish and co-founded Life Teen, the nation's largest Catholic youth ministry with Baniewicz, was accused in the suit of giving alcohol to the teen and then watching Lehman sexually abuse Cesolini. [8]

See also


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