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Dallas bishop didn't reveal former Worcester priest's past

He told young man his molestation allegation was first despite '98 report of misconduct

By BROOKS EGERTON / The Dallas Morning News
Monday, January 19, 2004

After the nation's Catholic bishops pledged a new openness this summer in dealing with clergy sexual abuse, the head of the Fort Worth Diocese wrote to a young man who had recently accused a priest of molesting him as a boy.

"Your complaint against him is the first that I know of that involves misconduct with a minor," Bishop Joseph Delaney wrote in a letter.

Yet The Dallas Morning News reported four years ago that the priest, who served in the Fort Worth Diocese from 1988 to 1993, had been convicted in Massachusetts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and supplying him alcohol. The Rev. Thomas Teczar also had been suspected of abuse while training to be a priest in the 1960s and at parish jobs after ordination, and had been forced into a treatment center in the 1980s, the paper reported.

At the time of The News' 1998 report, Bishop Delaney acknowledged that he had known about the delinquency matter and the treatment center stay when he let Father Teczar transfer to Fort Worth from the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., in the late 1980s. The bishop – who declined to be interviewed for this story – has said he was not told about the rest of the priest's history, although church documents show that other bishops who considered hiring Father Teczar were advised.

A top Worcester diocesan official wrote to one such bishop in 1986, for example, that the priest had left "a trail of damaged youngsters" in one Massachusetts town, where "police threatened to find a reason to arrest him if he returned."

A spokesman for Bishop Delaney said Wednesday that the bishop did not wish to hear questions from The News. In a brief written statement, the bishop said there had been no previous abuse complaints stemming from Father Teczar's work in Texas.

Father Teczar did not respond to messages left at his home in Massachusetts, where he remains a priest but is barred from public ministry. As The News reported in 1998, he has testified in a pending Massachusetts lawsuit against him that he was fired from an orphanage in the mid-1960s after an incident with a young boy he was bathing.

A national victims' group leader said that the statement in Bishop Delaney's recent letter is just one example of church leaders continuing to conceal the extent of clergy abuse and to violate promises made at their historic Dallas meeting in June.

Secrecy still 'the norm'

"I think that secrecy is still very much the norm," said David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Telling someone that he is the lone accuser, he added, "is one of the most nefarious types of responses."

"It's designed to minimize the chance that someone will seek legal action," he said. "It also keeps the victim trapped in shame and self-blame."

The man with whom Bishop Delaney has corresponded recently is the first to publicly accuse Father Teczar of abuse in Texas. Bishop Delaney, as required under the bishops' new national policy, referred the accusation to government authorities.

Bill Dowell, a prosecutor in Eastland County, at the southwestern edge of the 28-county Fort Worth Diocese, said he has asked the Texas Rangers to investigate. The Rangers said they plan to do so.

In Texas, Father Teczar worked first in Tarrant County and later as pastor of four rural parishes in or near Eastland County. He hurriedly returned to Massachusetts in 1993 after refusing to answer questions from a grand jury about two associates who were accused of molestation and have since been imprisoned.

Mr. Dowell told The News four years ago that he also suspected Father Teczar of abuse but knew of no victims, as he did with the associates. Father Teczar urged one of those men to destroy Polaroid snapshots of nude children, according to witness accounts.

Wade Driskill, the Texan who recently accused Father Teczar, said the priest took nude pictures of him, too.

He said he was abused four times in the early 1990s, when he was 15 years old and went to the priest's home, next door to St. Rita Catholic Church in the town of Ranger, for spiritual counsel. Father Teczar's associates, he said, did not abuse him.

The priest, Mr. Driskill recalled, invited him over and said he did "a lot of counseling with troubled kids." And "even on the first visit, he started talking about masturbation."

After the first incident, he said, Father Teczar warned him not to let anyone know what happened. "He told me that they would believe him and they wouldn't believe me," Mr. Driskill said.

Mr. Driskill, 26, grew up in Ranger and has been convicted of theft or burglary several times since he was a teenager. He is currently serving a state jail sentence for theft.

Both he and his mother said he began stealing about the time of the alleged abuse, although his mother said she learned only recently of her son's connection to Father Teczar. The priest patronized their service station, where the young Mr. Driskill sometimes worked alone; the family is not Catholic.

Mr. Driskill said he recently felt able to talk about the matter for the first time after going to a Catholic service behind bars. He said he takes responsibility for his crimes and does not blame them on Father Teczar but wants to better understand himself and quit squandering his life.

Mr. Driskill has asked the Fort Worth Diocese to pay for counseling, and Bishop Delaney agreed in a July 11 letter. Speaking of Father Teczar in that letter, the bishop wrote: "I am very distressed at his misconduct in abusing you."

Conflicting statements

The bishop also wrote that "Thomas Teczar is no longer a priest." But Ray Delisle, spokesman for the Diocese of Worcester, said that Father Teczar remains a priest, though he has been barred from public ministry since leaving Texas.

Mr. Delisle declined to comment on Bishop Delaney's past assertions that the Worcester Diocese did not tell him about all of Father Teczar's problems. The spokesman said he was not privy to communications between bishops and noted that the Worcester diocesan officials who dealt with Bishop Delaney have since died.

In an Aug. 5 letter to Mr. Driskill, Bishop Delaney responded to questions about why Father Teczar left Ranger. He wrote that he knew little but thought the priest "was accused of not having reported the misconduct of another person."

In commenting on The News' report in 1998, Bishop Delaney said that Father Teczar came to see him in 1993, accompanied by two attorneys, and "explained that he was being accused of not having reported the sexual abuse of a child to the authorities of Eastland County. ... His attorneys assured me they were in touch with the authorities there, who were willing to drop the investigation if Father Teczar left the state."

No such deal existed, Eastland County officials have said. Ronnie White, who was sheriff at the time, has said that he wanted to arrest Father Teczar for not reporting abuse – and that the diocese wouldn't discuss the priest's personnel history or help locate him.

A day before speaking about the alleged deal, Bishop Delaney had given The News a different account. Father Teczar, he said, went back to Massachusetts because "he decided he didn't want to be a priest in Texas anymore." Bishop Delaney also said in 1998 that he erred in accepting Father Teczar from the Worcester Diocese and no longer would accept transferring priests with similar backgrounds.

Father Teczar initially came to Texas with the Worcester bishop's blessing. But when parents of a Massachusetts boy whom Father Teczar had given alcohol learned of the transfer and protested, the Worcester bishop warned Bishop Delaney in writing that the priest no longer had his approval to serve.

Bishop Delaney kept Father Teczar on duty and vouched for him when the parents pressed a criminal complaint, alleging that the priest had tried to seduce their son.

Father Teczar was fined $375 on the delinquency and alcohol charges in 1991 after Bishop Delaney said, in a letter to a Massachusetts court, that "he is not working with young people in his present assignment, and I intend that this will be the continuing arrangement."

Father Teczar, however, was working as a pastor in parishes with children at the time, and he continued to do so.

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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests