March 26, 2005

Dioceses settle case for $1.4M

Telegram & Gazette


The Catholic Dioceses of Worcester and Forth Worth, Texas, late Thursday night settled one of the pending lawsuits against the dioceses, two bishops and the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar for $1.4 million, according to the lawyers representing the alleged victims.

The settlement came in the case of a man from Ranger, Texas, identified only as John Doe I. He is represented by Daniel J. Shea of Houston.

No settlement was reached in the case of John Doe II, who is represented by Tahira Khan Merritt and Sylvia Demarest of Dallas. Ms. Khan Merritt said yesterday that unless some settlement is reached in the case, it will go to trial in July.

“I’m very happy for Dan that he was able to bring in that settlement for his client,” Ms. Khan Merritt said. “In my case, I want this to go to a jury because there is a lot of information about the conspiracy between the two dioceses that needs to come out. I want the truth to come out.”

Ms. Khan Merritt said the case of John Doe II involves repressed memories of the alleged abuse, while John Doe I had never suppressed or repressed his memories of the alleged abuse.

Mr. Shea, who represented several people in the Worcester area in their cases against the Worcester Diocese, said he was able to get a larger settlement in Texas because that state does not have a charitable immunity cap of $20,000 as Massachusetts does. The Worcester Diocese has been settling its recent clergy sexual abuse suits for less than the cap.

Mr. Shea and Ms. Khan Merritt said that none of the $1.4 million is coming from the Worcester Diocese. They were surprised to learn late Thursday night that the Worcester Diocese had a previously unknown indemnification agreement with Fort Worth that absolved Worcester from paying any money if Rev. Teczar was accused of sexually abusing minors in Texas.

James Gavin Reardon Jr., lawyer for the diocese, who attended the mediation session that resulted in the settlement, was not available yesterday for comment. Rev. Teczar also did not return a call seeking comment.

The settlement came from a mediation session held all day Thursday in Los Colinas, Texas, which is near Dallas. Diocesan offices were also closed because of the Easter Triduum, and a call for comment was not answered.

“We were shocked,” Ms. Khan Merritt said yesterday of the agreement that indemnifies the Worcester Diocese. The agreement was never produced during the normal discovery process in the litigation, she said. She has asked lawyers for the two dioceses to produce the document. The lawyers were told about the document at the mediation, she said.

Mr. Shea, who said he was pleased to get a sizeable settlement for John Doe I, said existence of the indemnification agreement can only help Ms. Khan Merritt in her remaining cases involving John Doe II because it shows that “the Worcester Diocese knew beforehand that Father Teczar would abuse minors when he got to Texas.”

The two men filed civil lawsuits in the Tarrant County District Court in Fort Worth alleging they were sexually abused by Rev. Teczar after he left the Worcester Diocese in 1988 and assigned to a parish in Ranger, part of the Fort Worth Diocese.

Although the lawyers for the two men did not know of the indemnification agreement, there seemed to be some suggestion of removing liability from Worcester in documents presented as evidence in the lawsuit.

Ms. Khan Merritt, in her motion opposing dismissal of the lawsuit, said the two dioceses were “fully aware of Rev. Teczar’s sexual attraction to adolescents” and Bishop Joseph P. Delaney had discussed this with Rev. Teczar. “Two days later, on June 15, 1988, Delaney spoke with Bishop Harrington, who agreed to allow Teczar to work in the Fort Worth Diocese if Delaney would ‘assume all legal responsibility in writing for Teczar.’ ” Another legal document also states that Bishop Harrington had been told by his legal advisers not to accept responsibility for Rev. Teczar.

In her court document, Ms. Khan Merritt states that John Doe I, then 14, was working at his parents’ gas station in Ranger in late 1989 when he first met Rev. Teczar. The church had a charge account with the gas station and Rev. Teczar brought his Mercedes-Benz and Ford Explorer vehicles there for service. This information was provided by McWilliam Bixler, who worked at the rectory.

John Doe I said in a deposition that, in the spring of 1999, he was invited by Rev. Teczar to come to the rectory under the pretext that he would receive counseling. The conversation soon turned to sexual matters, he said.

John Doe I said that he was sexually abused in the rectory on at least five occasions in 1991 and 1992. The abuse included fondling and oral and anal sex, he testified. Rev. Teczar also took photos of him in his underwear with his head cropped out of the picture, he said. He saw similar photos of other boys posed in the rectory.

His affidavit said that Teczar threatened and warned him not to tell anyone about the sexual activities, and that no one would believe him against the word of a priest.

After the abuse, John Doe I ran away from home and began getting into legal difficulties, Ms. Khan Merritt said.

The lawsuit named the dioceses, Bishop Joseph P. Delaney of Fort Worth, retired Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger of Worcester and Rev. Teczar.

Reaction from alleged victims and advocates in Central Massachusetts came swiftly.

David A. Lewcon of Uxbridge, who alleges that he was sexually abused by Rev. Teczar at St. Mary Parish, Uxbridge, said, “Since the Worcester Diocese traditionally has paid out the lowest settlements in the country, I would imagine that all the local victims are living vicariously through John Doe I.”

Mr. Lewcon said money does not provide healing. “This settlement is validation to the victim that his abuse had compromised his life.”

George “Skip” Shea of Uxbridge, who settled a civil lawsuit here under the charitable immunity cap after alleging he was abused by Rev. Teczar, said, “It is heartening to see the legal system work in Texas in regards to Father Teczar. Bringing the truth into the light and accepting accountability is a major step in healing.”

“It is my hope that the light of truth will one day shine as brightly in Worcester as it did in Fort Worth,” added Mr. Shea, who is not related to the Houston lawyer. He said he hopes the recent change in leadership, with the arrival of Bishop Robert J. McManus, will help.

Daniel E. Dick of Worcester, victim support coordinator for the Worcester area Voice of the Faithful chapter, said the settlement seems to indicate that Worcester and Fort Worth dioceses “acted together” to remove Rev. Teczar from Worcester and send him to Texas.

Mr. Dick said anyone who reads area newspapers “knows that Rev. Teczar has a long record of being a pedophile.”

Rev. Teczar, who lost his credentials to function as a priest in the Worcester Diocese in 1986, lives in Dudley. He said in a previous interview that he never met John Doe II and only knew John Doe I from the gas station in Ranger. He denied that he sexually abused either man.

Posted by kshaw at March 26, 2005 03:52 AM