| Sex-abuse woes
still dog Tucson diocese
By Stephanie Innes
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
December 22, 2003
As 2004 begins with 17 pending lawsuits alleging sexual abuse
by clergy members, the nearly 2-year-old scandal involving
priest abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson is not
Also, efforts to laicize one priest, Monsignor Robert C.
Trupia, whom diocesan officials have called a "serial
predator," have so far been unsuccessful. Diocesan officials
say they continue to try.
"What's really clear is that the system is broken, and
it won't get fixed until the hierarchy comes clean,"
said John Manly, a Costa Mesa, Calif., attorney who has 85
pending lawsuits against Roman Catholic Church dioceses in
the United States, including five against the local diocese,
and maintains Catholic officials are still harboring secrets
about sexual abuse from worshippers. "It's not just a
Tucson problem. It's an American church problem," he
Yet now that 2003 is drawing to a close, Tucson diocesan
officials say they have made tremendous progress in combating
the scandal. Over the past six months, for example, three
priests who once worked in the diocese were sent to prison
for sexual abuse, and two of those cases followed investigations
initiated by the local diocese.
The diocese in 2002 also became one of the first in the country
to publish a list of priests with "credible" accusations
of sexual abuse against them. The list, which dates back to
the 1950s, includes 26 clerics and one nun.
"There's no profession that has been scrutinized to
this level over a 50-year period," said Gerald F. Kicanas,
who became bishop of the Diocese of Tucson in March, when
Bishop Manuel D. Moreno took early retirement. "We're
very pleased with a number of things. I think we're well-suited
for the present and future, and we're still struggling to
address the past, but I'm confident we will continue to try
to heal all the hurt people have experienced and all the struggles
At the end of 2002, the diocese was recovering from a year
that included paying an estimated $16 million in an out-of-court
settlement of 11 lawsuits filed by men, mostly now in their
30s, who said they were abused by four members of the local
clergy while they were altar boys in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
Officials said the settlement created a financial hardship
for the diocese, which in the late 1980s went into a similar
financial downturn when it bought a television station for
$13 million and its debt swelled to $23 million on the deal.
After last year's settlement, the diocese, which says it
is operating with a "negative net worth," was hit
with six new lawsuits.
During 2003, one of those lawsuits, involving schoolgirls
who said they were sexually abused by a Yuma Catholic school
teacher, was settled with a $1.8 million payment from the
diocese, but 11 more legal actions were filed, and another
is anticipated before the end of the year, bringing the total
number of pending legal actions against the diocese to 17.
Also last year, an Arizona Daily Star reporter discovered
Trupia living in a condominium in Maryland, driving a late-model
Mercedes and still collecting a monthly $1,475 stipend from
the local diocese. Trupia, who was named in six of the 11
lawsuits that were settled last year, is no longer considered
an active priest, though he still technically holds the title
of priest because local officials have not been successful
in efforts to laicize, or "defrock," him in a process
that must go through the Vatican. Manly calls Trupia a "monster"
who should be stripped of his collar.
"Actions speak louder than words, and someone needs
to make sure that man never hurts another kid," Manly
The local diocese endured more bad news in October when an
associate priest at St. Augustine Cathedral Downtown admitted
to his parish that he'd fathered a child, and then again this
month when a Nogales priest, the Rev. Fernando Manzo, became
missing after being suspended following an allegation of sexual
misconduct that remains under investigation.
"I think that if we talked about what steps they've
taken to deal with the problem of potential clergy sexual
abuse, they've put in place all the necessary elements and
people," said Dr. Terence Carden, a retired physician
who leads the local chapter of the lay Catholic group Voice
of the Faithful, which was formed in response to the sexual
One of the diocese's biggest accomplishments, according to
both Kicanas and members of Voice of the Faithful, was hiring
clinical psychologist Paul N. Duckro as director of the local
diocese's first Office of Child, Adolescent & Adult Protection.
A professor emeritus at Saint Louis University, he has 12
years' experience working on mental health treatment tailored
to religious communities and 20 years' experience in psychosomatic
Duckro ensures that allegations of sexual misconduct involving
children are reported immediately to law enforcement and has
set up programs for background checks, training, education
In spite of improvements, some say the diocese is not headed
for a smooth road in 2004.
"Until they start supporting the victims in the manner
they support priests, it's not going to be over," said
Tucson attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who represents victims in
13 of the pending lawsuits against the diocese. "They
make victims who want compensation feel terrible. They steal
their faith, poison their sexuality and then tell them to
be quiet and get over it."
Diocesan officials disagree. They emphasize that they have
provided counseling to victims who wanted it and have overhauled
employee training in order to be more aware of sexual abuse.
Kicanas said a national audit of all U.S. dioceses, scheduled
to be released in early January, will prove the local diocese's
compliance with national guidelines, as well as the proactive
stance it has taken with its policies. A second report, due
out in February, will give an overview of priest abuse nationwide.
The Diocese of Tucson stretches across nine Arizona counties
and includes about 350,000 Catholics. Catholicism is the largest
organized religion in Tucson and Pima County. Catholics make
up about 27 percent of the local population.
* Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.