January 29, 2005

Life Teen chief on leave in abuse case

The Arizona Republic

Michael Clancy and Joseph A. Reaves
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 29, 2005 12:00 AM

The president and co-founder of Life Teen youth ministry was placed on administrative leave by the organization's board of directors on Friday, a day after a lawsuit alleged that he and two others engaged in sexual misconduct with a teenager in 1985.

Phil Baniewicz, who has spent most of his adult career in the ministry to Catholic youth, was "devastated" by the news, said Mary Jo West, public information officer for the Diocese of Phoenix.

Baniewicz was accused in the lawsuit of abusing William Cesolini, a minor at the time, on more than one occasion. advertisement

Others named in the suit were the Rev. Mark Lehman, who already has served a 10-year prison term for abuse; and Monsignor Dale Fushek, pastor of St. Timothy parish in Mesa, who is accused of watching as Lehman abused Cesolini.

The diocese has asked the Vatican to defrock Lehman. Fushek was suspended Dec. 29, when the lawsuit's allegations first surfaced.

Baniewicz remained clear of the allegations until Thursday.

Posted by kshaw at January 29, 2005 06:26 AM