January 28, 2005

Life Teen co-founders sued

The Arizona Republic

Joseph A. Reaves
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Two co-founders of Life Teen, the nation's largest Catholic youth ministry based in the Valley, were accused Thursday in a lawsuit of covering up and helping carry out sexual attacks on a 14-year-old boy two decades ago.

The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, also claimed that the Life Teen program at St. Timothy's parish in Mesa had "a social culture which inappropriately focused upon sexual activity . . . and fostered an environment that led to inappropriate sexual behavior."

Named as defendants in the suit were Life Teen co-founders, Monsignor Dale J. Fushek and Phil Baniewicz, along with former priest Mark Lehman, resigned Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the Diocese of Phoenix, St. Timothy's Parish and Life Teen Inc., the program founded at St. Timothy's parish in 1985. advertisement

Jennifer Swanson, spokeswoman for Life Teen, said the suit was being sent to the organization's outside legal counsel for review. But she denied the allegations.

"Life Teen has transformed lives of countless teenagers, families and communities," she said. "Such an impact can be proven and we will not allow a lawsuit to impede teens developing a friendship with Christ."

Posted by kshaw at January 28, 2005 03:42 AM