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Letter from Worcester bishop implored Texas diocese to take accused priest

Richard Nangle
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

April 21, 2003

Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger, who has been accused of sexual abuse by a Shrewsbury man, asked the Fort Worth, Texas, diocese in 1988 to take a priest from the Worcester diocese who had been similarly accused.

Correspondence attached to a sexual abuse lawsuit against Rev. Thomas Teczar shows that Bishop Rueger wrote to the bishop of Fort Worth, "Our diocesan attorney has advised that Father Teczar be incardinated immediately in the diocese of Fort Worth. Pursuant to this advice, the bishop would be anxious for us to undertake this process." The lawyer he referred to in the Sept. 13, 1988, letter was the late James Reardon of Worcester.

On Oct. 8 of that year, Fort Worth Bishop Joseph P. Delaney wrote to Worcester Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, "I understand very well Mr. Reardon's point of view; the sooner the Diocese of Worcester can rid itself of Father Teczar the better."

Two years earlier, Monsignor Raymond J. Page, vicar general of the Worcester diocese, wrote to Bishop Reilly, then in charge of the diocese serving Norwich, Conn., "Father Teczar is a priest of this diocese. Bishop Harrington has granted him a leave of absence with the suggestion that he seek a benevolent bishop.

"Tom's difficulties came to a head two years ago when a 16-year-old boy accused Tom of soliciting him," the letter continued.

Monsignor Page also wrote Bishop Reilly that "Bishop Harrington says there has long been a cloud of suspicion over Tom. Bishop Harrington knows a trail of damaged youngsters he left in one town. The police there were far from pleased. In that town, the police threatened to find a reason to arrest him if he returned there." Bishop Reilly declined to take on Rev. Teczar, and the Worcester diocese began to focus on Fort Worth.

Rev. Teczar had been a concern to the Worcester diocese as far back as 1967, when the dean of Catholic University of America asked Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan about the priest's fitness to become a seminarian.

Bishop Flanagan warned of Rev. Teczar's "predilection for intimate and rather exclusive companionship with young boys."

Last week, Rev. Teczar was named in a Texas lawsuit in which a 27-year-old man accused him of sexual abuse dating back to the early 1990s.

Tahira Khan Merritt, a Dallas lawyer who filed the case in Tarrant County District Court, said the "$24 million question" is why Bishop Delaney of the Fort Worth diocese took Rev. Teczar into the diocese in 1988 when he had been clearly warned by Worcester diocesan officials of potential liability.

According to the lawsuit, Bishop Delaney signed an agreement absolving Bishop Harrington of responsibility for Rev. Teczar's conduct while in Texas.

A Worcester Superior Court civil jury in October found that Rev. Teczar was responsible for sexual abuse of David A. Lewcon of Webster when he was assigned to St. Mary's Parish, Uxbridge, in 1971. The jury declined to award monetary damages.

"Harrington allowed Tom Teczar to exist," Mr. Lewcon said in an interview prior to the trial.

Bishop Rueger is facing a lawsuit accusing him of sexually abusing Sime Braio of Shrewsbury in the early 1960s. While, Bishop Reilly has placed seven priests accused of sexual abuse on leave since early last year, Bishop Rueger has been allowed to continue working.

In his 1988 letter to Bishop Delaney, Bishop Rueger wrote, "If I can be of any further help in furnishing to you any necessary documents, please let me know. Let us pray that this will have a successful outcome."

Bishop Delaney wrote Bishop Harrington that Rev. Teczar could not be immediately incardinated because of a policy in the Fort Worth diocese that a priest spend three years there "ad experimentum" before being considered for incardination.

"I am writing directly to you since you and I discussed the matter by telephone last June as well as at the Collegeville meeting," Bishop Delaney wrote.

The letter went on, "Bishop Rueger sent me a copy of the letter you received from Mr. James Reardon, the diocesan attorney, with his opinion that Father Teczar should be excardinated from the Diocese of Worcester immediately. While respecting Mr. Reardon's expertise in civil law, I want to raise with you other questions about this matter involving both justice and charity."

Bishop Delaney said he believed Rev. Teczar would perform well for the Fort Worth diocese.

"Let me be clear about the three-year wait," he wrote. "It is not due to concern about Tom's past problem. If I had serious concern in that regard I would not be dealing with the matter at all! ... In Tom's case there is the past problem that you and he have fully shared with me. But that is not the reason for the wait. If I had any fear that the problem would ever arise again I could not and would not accept him at all for any length of time.

"You told me both times we talked that you believe Tom can do effective priestly work and that you do not want to see him laicized. I can offer him that chance ... I am willing to provide the Diocese of Worcester with a document absolving you of any responsibility for Father Teczar's conduct during this time."

Rev. Teczar's name came up in connection with a $42,500 settlement in a case where Rev. Thomas A. Kane, who ran the former House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, was accused of sexually abusing Mark Barry of Uxbridge beginning at age 9. The settlement agreement, signed by Bishop Reilly, included the names of three priests who had not previously been connected to the lawsuit - Rev. Teczar, Rev. Robert Shauris and Monsignor Brendan Riordan.

Houston lawyer Daniel Shea, who represents Mr. Braio in the Rueger lawsuit, has said Mr. Barry was passed around a ring of priests for sex.

The Worcester diocese has denied that any such priest sex ring existed, and Bishop Reilly has said he signed the agreement "in good faith as prepared and approved by the legal counsels representing all the parties and agreed upon by Mr. Barry at the time."

In Fort Worth, Rev. Teczar was a priest at four different parishes. His career there ended in 1993 after he quickly left the state during a criminal investigation into child molestation in Eastland County, Texas.

Not long after, Rev. Teczar was back in Massachusetts and living in Dudley.

Richard Nangle can be reached by e-mail at rnangle@telegram.com.

 


Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests
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