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MA diocese still supports priests on leave for allegations

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Diocese of Worcester continues to support a number of priests placed on leave because of sexual misconduct allegations, including the Rev. Thomas A. Kane, director of the former House of Affirmation, who was fired amid fiscal irregularities at the Whitinsville facility.

Bishop Robert J. McManus said in a statement Friday that the diocese is reviewing its policies on support for priests on leave because of sexual abuse allegations, but said canon law requires the diocese to continue support to priests who need help.

Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, former head of the Worcester Diocese, said in a deposition and under questioning from lawyer Tahira Khan Merritt of Dallas that the money comes from the priest assistance fund. The priests are entitled by canon law to money to meet their needs, including medical insurance, he said. He did not say exactly how many priests are receiving money; Bishop Reilly reported in February that 45 priests have been accused of misconduct since 1950, although some have since died.

The diocesan records for fiscal 2003 show more than $270,000 in the priest assistance fund. Bishop Reilly said this money does not go to retired priests, who are in a separate fund.

Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the diocese, said the money in the priest assistance fund is also used for other things besides accused priests.

He said priests in good standing with the church can be helped through that fund, when they are on leave because of health or other personal circumstances unrelated to allegations of misconduct. The financial help each priest gets is decided on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Bishop Reilly testified at a deposition that started in April and concluded in September involving a lawsuit filed in Texas by two men who alleged they were sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar in that state when they were teenagers.

Rev. Teczar was removed from priestly service in Worcester after allegations arose here, but found a new placement in 1988 in the Fort Worth (Texas) Diocese. He returned to Massachusetts in 1993 after the allegations of sexual misconduct arose there.

Ms. Merritt asked the bishop where Rev. Kane is now. “I am not quite sure where he is. I would have to check the file. He has been in different places, but I am not sure where he is now.” The depositions indicated that Rev. Teczar had been sent to the House of Affirmation for treatment after allegations arose in the Worcester Diocese.

“Is he still being financially supported by the Worcester diocese?” she asked. “Yes,” the bishop replied. Rev. Kane was last known to be living in Mexico, where he was running a teacher training institute and publicized the venture with a Web site.

Rev. Kane was ousted from his position as director of the House of Affirmation in 1987 after 11 executives complained that he siphoned off money from the agency to support and increase his own extensive real estate holdings. The case was closed when he was removed, and he paid back an amount of money to the house. The amount was never disclosed.

Bishop Reilly told Ms. Merritt, who represents one alleged victim, that Rev. Teczar, although he cannot function as a priest, receives $554 a month plus medical insurance. Bishop Reilly said he sees no reason to defrock Rev. Teczar. “I don’t see the big difference that that makes,” he said.

“He is free, he is not in prison?” Ms. Merritt asked, to which the bishop replied “Yes.”

“So he could still be molesting children today, couldn’t he?” she said.

“Yes,” the bishop replied. He added that Rev. Teczar could be molesting minors whether or not he was defrocked.

“Well, but you wouldn’t have any more responsibility for him, would you, economically and ecclesiastically?”

“Right,” the bishop answered.

Bishop Reilly said the diocese has only attempted to defrock one priest, Monsignor Leo J. Battista. Monsignor Battista, a former director of Catholic Charities, was removed from ministry and is now retired after an allegation surfaced against him in a civil suit in the early 1990s.

The bishop said he sent that case to Rome for action. Asked why he chose Monsignor Battista and none of the others, he replied, “Because the case was so strong and it was really something that this woman felt was necessary for her to achieve her fullness as a person again.”

The diocese produced computer records showing that it paid Rev. Teczar a total of $27,101 from January 2000 to April. The money was “something to help him live his daily life, and that is something we have to do according to canon law,” the bishop said. Ms. Merritt asked how much he had paid to the two alleged victims, John Doe I and John Doe II, in the Texas lawsuit and he said he couldn’t answer. Ms. Merritt represents the man identified as John Doe II while Daniel J. Shea of Houston represents John Doe I.

Bishop McManus, who succeeded Bishop Reilly as Worcester bishop in May, said the diocese in conjunction with the Diocesan Review Board is conducting a final review of a new policy for liaison to those on leave because of allegations of sexual misconduct “and other issues related to their leave.”

Bishop McManus said as long as priests continue to have canonical rights as priests and while they are awaiting a church resolution to their situation, the diocese is obliged by Canon 281 of the church’s canon law to provide financial help. Canon law states this remuneration “should enable them to provide for the needs of their own life and for the equitable payment of those whose services they need,” the bishop said.

He added, the “provision is likewise to be made so that they possess that social assistance by which their needs are suitably provided for if they suffer from illness, incapacity or old age.

“As part of this policy review, procedures are being discussed which will respect the rights of those in need while assuring the diocese’s continued ability to direct donations to their intended use, namely, support the mission of the church,” Bishop McManus said.

“The status of individual cases of support, including that of Father Kane, changes from time to time due to changes in their individual circumstances, and will be reviewed to assure that a demonstrated need justified continuing financial support,” Bishop McManus said.

Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger, who told lawyers in his April deposition that he expects to retire soon, said that Bishop Reilly about six months earlier appointed four priests to act as “monitors” of the priests who were removed for sexual misconduct allegations. He named Monsignor Thomas J. Sullivan, the chancellor and liaison to District Attorney John J. Conte; Monsignor F. Stephen Pedone, the judical vicar; and the Rev. Rocco Piccolomini, vicar for priests, but could not recall the name of the fourth monitor.

Bishop Reilly said the diocese is not monitoring Rev. Teczar, who lives in Dudley, and said he is “pretty much on his own.” He added this is “pretty much a concern. It would be the same thing if he was laicized.”

Bishop Reilly revealed that the Rev. Peter J. Inzerillo, who was placed into St. Leo’s Parish, Leominster, after a suit had been settled naming him and the Rev. Brendan O’Donoghue as perpetrators of sexual misconduct, was not removed from the parish in 2002 because of any pressure from the parish. He said he was removed because another separate allegation not connected with the settled lawsuit came to his attention.

Bishop Reilly said the issue of Rev. Inzerillo being named in that lawsuit was complicated because no proof was presented to show that Rev. Inzerillo had done anything wrong. He said the priest was named in the settlement “because the opposite side wanted his name included in the settlement.”

“So it was one of those things where it is not very clear that you are putting somebody who is guilty of a crime back into the parish,” he said.

“He was removed from the parish because an allegation came in that I thought had credence,” he said.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests